• Supporting our Businesses and Gaps in Support

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    24 June 2020

    The Prime Minister has this week announced that pubs, restaurants and many other outlets and activities will shortly be allowed to reopen in England, subject to them following safety guidelines and social distancing guidelines. Every small business in our constituency will be feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and for many of them their survival will depend on how we support them over the coming weeks and months. Please shop locally and shop responsibly as much as you possibly can. 

    The House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, which I chair, published a report last week setting out our assessment of the Government's support measures for businesses and individuals impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. While the Chancellor has undoubtedly acted at an impressive scale and pace (in our Central Devon constituency more than 10,000 workers have had their wages covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and 5,000 more have benefited from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme) the committee has identified well over a million people who - through no fault of their own - have lost livelihoods while being locked down and locked out of the main support programmes. These include newly employed and self-employed people, freelancers on short-term contracts, and directors of limited companies who take a large part of their income in dividends. We have made a series of recommendations to help these workers, including extending eligibility for the Job Retention Scheme for new starters, giving freelancers access to financial support that equates to 80% of their average monthly income and supporting directors of limited companies through self-assessed furlough claims subject to potential claw-back for overclaiming. 

    As well as looking at the gaps in short-term support measures the Committee is working hard on the issues of the next phase - our long-term economic recovery. We are focusing on the key questions around how Government might support businesses and the economy. What scope might there be for boosting consumer expenditure and what might tax changes achieve in this area? How will Government best ensure that the recent increase in business indebtedness might be restructured so that businesses can concentrate on growth and much needed job creation? What role can investment in infrastructure play in boosting recovery? We have heard much about green investment and further broadband rollout, but what might that actually look like? How can new skills be delivered? How can young people be supported back into work? What about regulation? How do we ensure, for example, that pubs, restaurants and the leisure sector springs back to life in a world of continued social distancing? And how might fiscal and monetary measures be best deployed and at what point in time? The Committee continues to work at speed on these and many other questions, but as we move on and into the next phase of the economic crisis, we simply must not forget those who have been left behind. They need support, they need it now and the Chancellor should reflect on our recommendations without delay.

    For more from Mel follow him on twitter @MelJStride or visit