Updated: Jan 11
Labour has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make an urgent statement to Parliament on economic support for the new England-wide lockdown, including the confirmation that the next Self Employed Income Support Scheme will be set at 80%.
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.
Labour says Sunak 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.
A spokesperson for the Labour Party added: “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.”
Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has today called on him to appear in Parliament as soon as possible to set out in full what support will be offered to those affected by the new lockdown.
Dodds 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 2020. 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.
Anneliese Dodds 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.”