A group of MPs have claimed the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has ‘turned his back’ on up to one million people by failing to provide financial support and assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Treasury Committee said Mr Sunak had “effectively drawn a line” under providing support, despite calling on him to “do whatever it takes”.
The Chancellor led the creation of the Job Retention Scheme at the height of the pandemic, covering 80% of workers’ wages to avoid businesses having to make job cuts. But many people, particularly freelancers and self-employed workers were often left with little support.
In a response to the Treasury Committee’s report, Mr Sunak said “is correct that some people have not been eligible”, but stressed that they “were the right policies for the first phase of the crisis”. Many criticised the need for self-employed workers to have filed a tax return prior to the previous financial year because it would allow “organised criminal gang(s) to file fake or misleading returns to claim the grant”.
Mel Stride, chair of the Treasury Committee, said: “The chancellor has effectively drawn a line under helping the million-plus people who have been excluded from support for four months.
“Despite stating that he will not pick winners and losers when it comes to sectors and businesses that need support, the chancellor has done this when it comes to households and individuals.
“The chancellor said that the schemes were designed to be open and accessible to as many people as possible, but the committee remains to be convinced that more people could not have been helped.”
He added: “While the government is clear that it is moving on to the next phase of its recovery plan, it cannot just turn its back on those who are suffering.”
The Treasury described the policies as “unmatched”, and said: “We have kept nine-and-a-half million people in work, supported the incomes of 2.6 million self-employed people and helped businesses across the UK get through the outbreak – acting quickly to deliver one of the most generous and comprehensive packages of support in the world worth an initial £160bn.
“As part of the next phase of our economic plan to rebuild and recover the UK, we recent announced Our Plan for Jobs. We have made up to £30bn available to support, protect and create jobs, helping ensure people and businesses can come back from this crisis stronger.”