Business groups welcome aid for self-employed

“We have heard despairing stories from hard-working hairdressers, bakers, childcare providers, freelancers, drivers and many others”

Thousands of self-employed workers across Leicestershire have welcomed the latest financial life-line offered during the economic lockdown.

Business groups said the new measures would go some way to reassuring small business owners, café owners, hairdressers and musicians who had been worried about how they would cope over the coming days.

A week ago the Government announced a huge package of support for businesses and their employees – but some 5 million freelancers and self-employed people in the UK were missed out.

Business groups had pushed the Government to offer similar support to the self-employed.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new package on Thursday, including a self-employed income support scheme, under what he called the most significant economic intervention in British history.

He said the support would cover 80 per cent of average earnings, capped at £2,500 a month, for people who have been self-employed for three years.

It covers around 95 per cent of all people who make the majority of their earnings working for themselves, and can be claimed by anyone with an income of £50,000 or less. It will cost the Exchequer around £35 billion.

The city and county are famous for the high proportion of independent businesses that help keep the local economy ticking over.

Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) said the money will be paid in a single lump sum, but will not begin to arrive until early June at the earliest.

The LLEP said HMRC will contact those who are eligible for the grant and the scheme is likely to be for three months initially.

The minority pf self-employed people who are not eligible should look at other measures such as the Business Interruption Loan Scheme, full Universal Credit advance payments, help with council tax bills, 3 month mortgage holidays and housing benefits.

Jennifer Thomas, development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses covering Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, said although protecting the nation’s health was the priority, securing its economic future also had to be underpinned.

Jennifer Thomas of the FSB

She said: “This is a time of national emergency, and it is very welcome that the Government has listened to FSB and responded with a multi-billion-pound package to support the most financially vulnerable entrepreneurs, and to do so through the self-assessment system.

“This follows help in the Budget and since, that was aimed squarely at small businesses such as a cut in the jobs tax, cover for small employers that cannot pay their employees, business rates holidays, cash grants, mortgage holidays, rent protections, and interest-free, fee-free loans.

“We hope the raft of support will keep as many small businesses as possible afloat.

“The self-employed, however, remained a glaring gap.

“They needed more help, and especially those with least resources to prepare for this storm.

“We have heard despairing stories from hard-working hairdressers, bakers, childcare providers, freelancers, drivers and many others, seeing the businesses they’ve spent years building dry up in a matter of days.

“It is many of those strivers who the package will support.

“This is an incredibly challenging situation for everyone.

“While the healthcare response is paramount, overcoming the economic disruption also requires a speedy response in the interests of jobs and future growth.

“This announcement will give hope to many hard-working, self-employed entrepreneurs, and it is important that the scheme is ready on-time and delivered as soon as possible.

“As this will be run through self-assessment, it is vital that any late filers submit their 2018-2019 return, right now, or they risk missing out.”

Scott Knowles, chief executive of East Midlands Chamber

Scott Knowles, the chief executive at East Midlands Chamber, which covers Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, said claimants needed to be able to access the help as soon as possible.

He said: “Self-employed people play a crucial role to both the East Midlands and the wider UK economy and it is absolutely right that Government supports this diverse group of workers in these uncertain and challenging times.

“The Chancellor’s announcement will be welcomed by many but the practicalities of delivering such an unprecedented package will be complex.

“Government must waste no time in ensuring words are translated into actions without delay.

“Self-employed workers, as with PAYE employees, are facing very real challenges now.

“This new measure, and those that have proceeded it, will be a comfort to many; but only once fully implemented.”

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