, , , , ,

City MP sets out Portsmouth demands on Government economic support

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make an urgent statement to Parliament on economic support for the new England-wide lockdown.

The Chancellor posted a 90-second video statement on business support measures for the new lockdown today, but is not scheduled to give a statement when Parliament is recalled tomorrow.

He made no mention of the millions of employees, self-employed people, parents and others who will be impacted by the new restrictions and intimated that no new announcements would be made until the Budget in March – yet households and businesses alike face a series of cliff edges throughout the spring as existing support programmes come to an end.

The Chancellor is also pressing ahead with plans to hit workers in their pockets by hiking council tax by 5%, cutting pay for key workers on the front line and slashing Universal Credit in the middle of the pandemic.

The Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has today also called on him to appear in Parliament as soon as possible to set out in full what support will be offered those affected by the new lockdown.

Anneliese Dodds MP is also demanding the Chancellor stops the last-minute scramble on economic support by setting out a long-term framework to support jobs and the economy through this crisis.

Labour’s demands include:

  • Support for employees
    By allowing people who started new jobs after October 31 to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and explaining what incentive businesses will be offered for retaining furloughed staff at the end of the scheme.
  • Support for the self-employed
    By confirming immediately that the fourth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be set at 80% of pre-crisis profits.
  • Support for the excluded
    By fixing holes in the existing income support schemes and using some of the £2 billion returned by supermarkets and other large shops to help the millions of workers denied support since the outset of the pandemic.
  • Support for business
    By giving business clarity about how long the new support payments will be available and helping them to plan for the future while the vaccine is rolled out.
  • Support for parents
    By making sure working parents are aware they can be furloughed to look after children when schools are closed, and extending the Test and Trace Support Payment so low-income parents of self-isolating children can receive it once schools are open for all children again.
  • Support for renters and homeowners
    By extending the bans on evictions and repossessions and extending mortgage holidays.
  • Support for those on low incomes and out of work
    By maintaining the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and uprating legacy benefits in line with UC.
  • Support for those required to self-isolate
    By ensuring all those who are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support payment know they can receive it, giving councils the resources to properly cover discretionary payments for the scheme and improving Statutory Sick Pay.

The Chancellor last appeared in Parliament at Treasury Questions on 1 December. In the intervening 35 days, new tier 4 restrictions have been introduced, expanded and then replaced with a blanket lockdown on a scale not seen since the first in March.

Today’s Twitter video was the first statement from the Chancellor on economic support since Tier 4 was introduced.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Many shops, leisure and beauty businesses in Portsmouth were only just getting back on their feet to have the rug pulled from under them when our city went into tier four. Now as we go into another national lockdown, many will be struggling even further.

“Portsmouth businesses are doing the right thing and closing to keep people safe, but Government cannot keep leaving businesses them in the lurch.

“The Chancellor must also finally offer support to those that have been excluded from financial support since March of last year. I will keep raising these issues in Parliament for those ignored by Ministers”.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds MP said:

“The UK is mired in the worst recession of any major economy and back under the strictest lockdown since March, yet the Chancellor is still missing in action.

“After the Prime Minister forgot to mention the economy again last night, millions of people were let down by the Chancellor’s 90-second cameo today.

“Instead of delivering the support that Britain needed, he’s ploughing on with plans to hit people in their pockets with pay cuts, benefits cuts and tax rises.

“People have had enough of the last-minute scramble from this absent Chancellor. Rishi Sunak must come to Parliament tomorrow and finally set out a long-term plan to protect jobs and livelihoods and put Britain on the path to a better, more secure recovery.”

Whether employed, self-employed, relying on social security or a combination of all three, Britain’s beleaguered households face several cliff edges in the first few months of 2021, including:

11 January: End of eviction ban

29 January: Deadline for applications for the third grant under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme

31 January: deadline for mortgage holidays; end of ban on home repossessions

31 March: applications close for government-backed loan schemes;

6 April: Government cuts £20 a week from Universal Credit

30 April: End of furlough scheme

Labour is calling on the government to end the last-minute scramble approach to economic support and put in place a long-term framework that allows support to be calibrated in line with the severity of restrictions, rather than pinned to arbitrary dates in the calendar.

These include:

Support for workers:

  • Reopen eligibility for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme so people who started new jobs after October 31st can be furloughed
  • Make sure employers and employees are aware that working parents can be furloughed in order to look after children now schools have been closed
  • Immediate clarity over what happens at the end of the furlough scheme – what is the “incentive” that businesses will be offered for retaining furloughed staff, and what happens if there are delays in rollout of the vaccine?
  • Consider whether requiring employers to pay National Insurance and pension contributions this time (unlike in March) is acting as a disincentive to retaining staff

Support for self-employed and those who have been excluded:

  • Immediately confirm that the fourth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be set at 80% of pre-crisis profits
  • Use the £2 billion returned by supermarkets and other large shops to support those who have been excluded from government support schemes

Support for businesses:

  • Clarify how the £594m in discretionary funding for businesses has been calculated and will be allocated. Is it genuinely based on business need and will it be given to those areas where need is most acute?

Support for renters and homeowners:

  • Extend the bans on evictions and repossessions while the pandemic is still ongoing
  • Increase Local Housing Allowance to cover median market rents
  • Reduce the waiting period to receive support for mortgage interest payments
  • Support for those on low incomes and those out of work:
  • The Government should not be cutting £20 from UC in the middle of a pandemic, and should uprate legacy benefits in line with UC
  • Convert UC advances to grants instead of loans, abolish the two-child limit and remove the savings limit
  • Scrap the benefit cap
  • Suspend the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rule

Support for those required to self-isolate:

  • Improve the communications around the £500 Test and Trace Support payment so all those who are eligible know they can receive it
  • Extend the scope of the payment so low-income parents of self-isolating children can receive it
  • Ensure that councils are able to give discretionary payments to all those who need them, including by suspending the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rule
  • Ensure that councils have the resources they need to continue making discretionary payments under the Test and Trace Support scheme
  • Address the inadequacy of Statutory Sick Pay – which the Health Secretary admits is not enough to live on – and is acting as a disincentive for people to do the right thing and self-isolate