The multi-stakeholder committee’s recommendations included providing financial support to short-term entrepreneurs and freelancers, going the extra mile to calculate the income of people who pay themselves through company dividends, and extending the deadline. to which staff were to be hired. to benefit from the leave program.
However, the Chancellor did not offer to change any of the programs in his response and said that while he had “carefully considered” some of the recommendations, there were “practical” reasons for maintaining strict eligibility criteria which, in many cases, would help block fraud.
Sunak also defended the government’s record on support, saying it had been “comprehensive in the economic response it has deployed.”
But Mel Stride, the committee’s Conservative chair, said the response showed the Chancellor had “effectively drawn a line in helping the millions who have been excluded from support for four months.”
“Although he has said he will not pick winners or losers when it comes to sectors and businesses that need support, the Chancellor has done so for households and individuals,” Stride said, adding that the committee was still not convinced the government could not have helped more people.
“The Chancellor first told those at risk of losing their livelihood that they would not be forgotten. While the government is clear that it is moving on to the next phase of its stimulus package, it cannot just turn its back on those who are suffering.
Stride urged the government to rethink its position.
The comments come as Sunak prepares to cut the multibillion-pound emergency financial support program in the coming months as the government tries to move away from the initial crisis phase of the pandemic.
From the start of next month, the Coronavirus Job Retention Program (CJRS) – launched in March to pay 80% of the wages of workers on leave – will be cut. Despite warnings from experts about the rapid rise in unemployment, it will be closed by the end of October.
No less than 9.5 million jobs have been created under the scheme in 1.2 million businesses, at a cost to the Treasury of £ 29.8 billion so far. Sunak used his summer statement to offer bonuses of £ 1,000 to employers who keep staff on leave, although experts have warned the scheme may have limited impact.
In his response to the Treasury Committee report, Sunak defended his efforts, saying that people who have had difficulty accessing the leave program or self-employment income support program “might seek support in the many measures. that we launched to make sure people get help. at the moment “.
He said: “The government has ensured that those who need it receive help with their utility bills and have access to mortgage and consumer credit holidays. To ensure we reach the most vulnerable, the government has given local councils an additional £ 500 million to provide all tax assistance recipients with local working age councils.