In an upbeat video interview, which was promoted on the Treasury’s official Twitter feed and presumably paid for by the taxpayer, Rishi Sunak outlined what he regarded as the major themes of his latest Budget.
“I don’t want anyone to be left without hope or opportunity,’’ he said. “There’s still a lot of difficulty in the economy but the Government’s going to be here, it’s going to keep supporting you, your business, your family, through the crisis.”
These words have a bitter ring for members of ExcludedUK, a grassroots volunteer-run not-for-profit organisation which campaigns on behalf of the estimated three million UK taxpayers excluded from Government Covid-19 support.
“I find it disgraceful to hear the Chancellor proclaim what has been done for others rather than address what hasn’t been done,’’ said one businessman who has been excluded from support.
“In simple terms, I liken this to me telling my daughter to stop complaining about being hungry, and to divert her pleas by going on to tell her how her brother has been so generously looked after.”
The man described the plight of the excluded as a scandal because “people have been told to stop working and therefore denied the opportunity to create income without any recompense from this Government”.
The story the man told will be familiar to many who find themselves excluded from support. He worked, hard, paid his taxes and always tried to do the right thing. Then the pandemic arrived.
“After 21 years I set up my own business to continue working in the furniture trade; becoming a freelance salesman allows me to represent more than one business and broadens my product offering. Despite a great start after setup, my income since March 2020 has been sporadic to say the least – I rely solely on commissions, and therefore need the shops to be open for people to buy and for me to earn.
“My wife has continued to work her role with additional hours, and this single income just about covers the essential fixed bills.
“So for all the other living variables we have relied on family savings, taking equity out of our property; and most disheartening of all, ‘going without’ through no fault of our own. We are ineligible for UC (Universal Credit) and having to home school our two young children has prevented me from alternative sources of employment.
“We have been left without any Government support since the start of the pandemic despite following all guidance and advice, and being a big believer in fairness and equality this has hit me quite hard.
“I have seen my marriage tested, my children suffer, my pride plummet, our savings decimated, my house remortgaged and various other sacrifices.”
"All of which have taken a huge mental toll while I watch the Government’s response and actions in not addressing this."
He said he was disgusted by the failure of some senior politicians to grasp the circumstances which are happening under their watch.
A Treasury spokesperson said the Government has done all it can to support jobs and livelihoods through a £350 billion package of support, and the UK’s self-employed and furlough schemes are among the most generous in the world.
The spokesman added: “We acknowledge that it has not been possible to support everyone in the way they might want. Funding is designed to target those who need it most and protect the taxpayer against fraud and abuse.”
In January, when asked by the SNP’s Martyn Day, if he would do anything for the three million who have been completely excluded from support, the Prime Minister replied: “They have not been excluded, and we continue to support people across the country.”
These responses will certainly not appease those who have been angered by their exclusion from Government support.
The businessman who works in the furniture trade, said: “We just want a bit of humility;..empathy and finally parity.. I am hateful towards all things political when I see the mistakes and errors made that have cost lives, delayed the reopening of the country and squandered millions in closed-door projects.”
Such sentiments may well be muttered under the breaths of millions of voters when they next head to the ballot box.
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