I know how difficult and challenging the current situation is for businesses, traders, freelancers and self-employed workers who have not been eligible for government support since the pandemic began.
This has left millions facing an extremely precarious financial situation; with many forced to rely on ever-dwindling savings, or the generosity of friends and family to simply stay afloat. Local traders in Barnsley and South Yorkshire will be wondering how to feed their children, or keep the heating on, over what will be undoubtedly the most difficult Christmas in decades.
As a local MP and as the South Yorkshire Mayor, I’ve worked around the clock to support those excluded from government support.
Alongside my fellow Metro Mayors, I recently attended an event jointly organised by Excluded UK and Forgotten Ltd to hear from those excluded from government support and to discuss the practical solutions the government could adopt. One idea, that the Labour frontbench and I wholeheartedly support, is to use the £1.3 billion in returned business rates relief returned from big businesses (such as supermarkets) to create an ‘Excluded Support Fund’ for those who haven’t received a penny in grants. Another is the creation of a Directors’ Income Support Scheme, along the lines of the SEISS to provide financial support to company directors paid through dividends. I firmly believe that there are workable, practical solutions to this problem, but the government must recognise the scale of challenge and react as a matter of urgency.
At the beginning of the first national lockdown I wrote to the Chancellor calling on him to extend support for those who would otherwise fall through the cracks. I’ve raised the issue of financial support for self-employed workers in Parliament and will continue to do so. I called on the Government to provide parity between employed and self-employed workers when local case numbers began to rise in September and I gave evidence to a cross-party committee on gaps in support to lay out the scale of the challenge we are facing here in South Yorkshire.
As Mayor, and alongside our council leaders, I secured a £41 million local lockdown lifeline to support businesses and communities as South Yorkshire entered Tier 3 restrictions and I’m working closely with them to get that support to where it is needed, as quickly as possible. Moreover, we’ve agreed additional financial support for local businesses and traders that fall through the cracks of government support and today the Government announced further discretionary support for businesses not eligible to receive grants based on their rateable value. I’d strongly recommend that you get in touch with your local council’s Business Support Team and the SCR Growth Hub to see if any additional local support is available.
I want to reassure you that I am fighting for all our self-employed workers, businesses, traders and freelancers to ensure that they get the support they need and deserve to weather the storm of this pandemic.