Self-employed agents and others who missed out on government support schemes have had hopes of a change of heart dashed.
In his Spending Review, chancellor Rishi Sunak made no mention of the 2.9 million people excluded from Covid support schemes. The figure, confirmed by the National Audit Office, will include self-employed agents deemed ineligible for the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
Julie Croucher, who runs independent agency Travel with Jules, said: “I am a director of a small limited company. We are not getting the support of high street shops. All the chancellor’s announcements have always been geared towards larger companies.”
Many were judged to not have been self-employed for long enough – such as those made redundant from a previous full-time role and who then set up businesses after 6 April 2019 and so could not provide the 2018-19 tax return demanded by the government.
Those with a PAYE/self-employment mix are also excluded from the SEISS support if less than 50% of their income comes from self-employment.
Others have been denied aid because their income fell over the £50,000 threshold – a cap that does not exist on the PAYE furlough scheme.
One member of pressure group ExcludedUK, Stephen Liddell, who runs Olde England Tours, employs nine people on a freelance basis, all entitled to support while he is not. He said he had not worked since February and had no bookings until May but was ineligible for support because of previous income “marginally above £50k”.
Sunak told parliament he expected unemployment to rise to 2.6 million by mid-2021.
“Our health emergency is not yet over and our economic emergency has only just begun,” he said.
The government has allocated £18 billion for testing and vaccinations next year but Sunak said the economy was not expected to return to pre-Covid levels until the fourth quarter of 2022.
One small crumb of comfort for the travel industry’s lower paid is that Sunak confirmed the National Living Wage would rise 2.2% to £8.91 an hour.