Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended furlough and self-employed support as we enter COVID-19 lockdown and one Mersey business leader is calling for extra infrastructure spending. Tony McDonough reports
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the the COVID-19 furlough scheme and increased the support for the self-employed as England enters a month-long lockdown.
Business leaders in the Liverpool city region have welcomed the latest announcement but add there are still gaps in the support schemes, particularly for company directors. There is also a call for a big increase in infrastructure spending to kick-start the local economy.
On Thursday, Mr Sunak said the furlough scheme will now be extended until March, paying employees 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked up to a limit of £2,500 a month.
He also revised plans for the self-employment support scheme. The third grant covering November to January will now be calculated at 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500. And he he raised the guaranteed upfront funding for the devolved administrations from £14bn to £16bn.
In response, Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, said: “We welcome the extension of the furlough and self employment schemes to March. Businesses need ongoing and sustained support – however, there is still a gap around limited company directors which particularly affects small businesses across our membership, and we will continue to push for further support.”
And Frank McKenna, chief executive of Liverpool-based business lobbying organisation, Downtown in Business, is calling on the Chancellor to use his Spending Review on November 25 to finally publish the National Infrastructure Strategy and the Infrastructure Finance Review.
Mr McKenna said: “This imminent Spending Review was supposed to cover three years and the Chancellor has downgraded it to cover just one year. The National Infrastructure Strategy should have been published 12 months ago but everyone is still waiting.
“If business is going to have any chance of surviving this pandemic then we need more consistency and a stronger plan, not just for the short term, but for the medium and longer term… we need solid proposals that help build the economy through infrastructure investment.
“This Chancellor introduced an Eat Out to Help Out scheme which is blamed for spreading the virus, a stop-start furlough scheme which caused mass redundancies, and a Kick Start Scheme which hasn’t started any jobs.
“The statement on the November 25 is a chance to provide concrete plans for investing in public transport, achieve carbon-neutrality, enabling a secure energy supply, become a digital superpower, harnessing and supporting the private sector… we really need a ‘level with us’ agenda – less spin, more substance.
“The Infrastructure Finance Review should provide a new framework for private sector involvement in infrastructure projects, as well as outline the UK’s plan for a post-Brexit successor to the European Investment Bank.
“A solid investment in infrastructure set over years, not months, will lift businesses across numerous sectors, the positive impact such development will have on the supply chain and communities where it will be applied cannot be underestimated.”