Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Business groups pile on pressure for government to support the self-employed

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Business groups pile on pressure for government to support the self-employed


Business groups are urging the government to support the UK's army of self-employed workers in the same way that it has backed company employees.

Last week, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced that the government would pay the wages of employees unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The state will pay 80 percent of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.

But no such promise was made for five million self-employed people – who account for 15 percent of the UK's workforce. Instead, they were offered £94 a week and a deferment on self-assessment income tax payments for six months.

Nationally, the cudgel has been taken up by the Federation of Small Businesses. National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Over the weekend we have heard from thousands of self-employed people – including hairdressers, bakers, childcare providers, taxi drivers and café owners – many frightened and in despair at seeing their business fall away, and staring at the prospect of little or no financial support.

“While it is welcome that the government has pledged to cover 80 percent of the wages of impacted employees, five million self-employed strivers have until now only been offered access to £94 a week. In desperation, many have attempted to apply for Universal Credit after Friday and have been turned down.

“These are people who have worked hard to build up their businesses, paid their taxes and helped the economy to grow. They now face a crunch point, with many unable to operate – leaving them without money, but with bills still stacking up."

Locally the call was echoed by Business West, which runs the Swindon and Wiltshire Initiative.

Managing director Phil Smith said: "The government has taken massive steps to help so many businesses in recent days.

“Ministers must now also ramp up support for the self-employed, many of whom have seen their livelihoods vanish in the blink of an eye.

“Business West and other Chambers across the UK are hearing from thousands of sole traders, for whom last week’s measures offer little reassurance.

“While we understand the complexity involved, there are five million self-employed people in the UK who need help similar in scale and scope to that put in place for larger firms in recent days.

“As part of British Chambers of Commerce, we are working at a national level to find a way to deliver support to self-employed people – and to ensure that the measures announced for larger businesses make it through quickly to the front line.”