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Coronavirus: Over 100 MPs call on Chancellor to extend support for self-employed

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Over 100 MPs signed a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunk urging him to extend income support for the self-employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street via AP)

Pressure is mounting on the UK chancellor to extend coronavirus support for the self-employed.

Over 100 MPs on Friday signed a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunk urging him to extend income support for the self-employed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) separately wrote to the Sunak on Thursday also urging an extension.

The Treasury set up the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS) in March, offering one-off grants to Britain’s self-employed to tide them over until May. Over two million people have claimed £6.8bn ($8.4bn) through the scheme.

The programme is set to expire over the weekend, leaving millions without guaranteed income as Britain’s lockdown persists.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 46% of businesses don't know when they'll reopen

Politicians and business groups have been calling on the chancellor to extend the scheme, as he has done with the government’s job retention scheme for employees.

“This scheme is a lifeline for millions of locked-down workers right across the country,” said Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh, who coordinated the letter from MPs.

“There are already significant holes in the support, but removing what is already in place would pull the safety net from under the feet of millions of self-employed workers. How can it be right for the furloughed scheme to continue but this scheme to not?”

113 MPs signed McDonagh’s letter, including four Conservative MPs.

IPSE warned in its letter that millions face “a financial cliff-edge” if the scheme is not extended. The letter called for an extension until October, in line with the job retention scheme.

IPSE’s correspondence was cosigned by the Creative Industries Federation, the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU), and actors’ union Equity. Collectively they represent five million people in the UK.

Read more: UK government warned self-employed face 'total income cliff-edge'

“To return to economic growth, the UK will need these flexible, entrepreneurial workers,” the letter said. “The government should invest in them now in their time of need, so that they are ready to rebound quickly once the country begins to return to economic health.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson was probed on a possible extension when he appeared before the House of Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday. Johnson said the policy was kept “under review” by the Chancellor.