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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

A Letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
HM Treasury
1 Horse Guards Road
Dear Chancellor
I am writing to express my concern about the support available for self-employed workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
In your announcements so far, you have rightly taken unprecedented steps to safeguard 80% of wages up to £2,500 per month for self-employed and PAYE workers during the current emergency. Major steps to protect business owners and private renters have also been welcome. However, I believe that there are some gaps that still need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
According to official Labour Market Statistics, Tameside is home to almost 13,200 workers who are classed as self-employed. In the announcement on the introduction of the self-employed income support scheme it was confirmed that applicants will likely not receive their first payment until June, over two months away.  
As the situation stands at the moment, this means that many self-employed residents are continuing to face uncertainly over their finances and the prospect of a significant period with reduced income, or perhaps even no income at all. I know that as a council we have already had a large amount of requests for support from self-employed residents with paying their council tax or meeting bills and payments as they fall due. Worse still, there exists the possibility that some of these self-employed may feel compelled by sheer desperation to break the current guidelines on social distancing and continue working, thus running the risk of infection or passing infection on to others.
It is true that self-employed workers are now entitled to access Universal Credit in full. However, there are a number of issues with this benefit as it stands. In particular there has been no action to date on reducing or removing entirely the five week wait for payment. While this predates the coronavirus pandemic, it has become a more glaring hole in our welfare provision now that many more people will be relying on these payments to meet ends meet for several months.
The Prime Minister himself said at the beginning of this crisis that no UK citizen should be financially penalised for doing the right thing. I ask that he now makes good on this noble pledge.
Therefore, I must request that you take immediate action to further support self-employed workers during this interim period, including eliminating the five week wait for Universal Credit, making the Universal Credit payments themselves more generous and bringing forward the date for the opening of the self-employed income support scheme with all possible haste.
While I understand that these may be expensive measures, I believe that they are absolutely necessary to offer security to tens of thousands of self-employed in Tameside, not to mention the millions across the rest of the UK.
Tameside stands ready to do its part to fight the coronavirus pandemic. I trust that you will take the appropriate steps to provide leadership and support our vital self-employed workers in the days, weeks and perhaps even months ahead.

Yours sincerely,
Councillor Brenda Warrington


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