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Government’s economic support package ‘worrying’ for low-income workers, says councillor

PUBLISHED: 11:46 18 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:46 18 March 2020

Norwich City councillor Karen Davis, second left Picture: Danielle Booden

Norwich City councillor Karen Davis, second left Picture: Danielle Booden

Danielle Booden

A Norfolk councillor has criticised the government’s announcement of support for businesses facing the economic emergency caused by the spread of coronavirus as “worrying” and doing “nothing for anybody on low incomes”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled a £330bn package of loans and grants to help firms survive the crisis - worth 15pc of the UK’s GDP.

The measures include business loans to manage cash flow, increasing borrowing limits, and upping legal powers to offer further support if needed, as well as granting business rates holidays for the next year to all retail, hospitality and leisure firms nationwide and providing grant funding between £10-25,000 to small businesses.

But the Treasury has been criticised for targeting support measures to firms and employers rather than low-income workers or those on precarious zero-hour contracts.

Labour city councillor Karen Davis said: “We’ve had austerity for ten years and suddenly you’ve found £350bn down the back of the sofa when people have been using food banks for a decade? I’m gobsmacked.

“There was nothing in there about statutory sick pay. Nothing about stopping the two-child limit on child benefit payments. It was an attempt to calm the markets.”

Banks and mortgage lenders have agreed to grant payment holidays for three months, but so far no measures have been announced to support renters.

The Town Close councillor added: “There was nothing for anybody on low incomes at all. They offered businesses a loan.

“People are going to have to pay it back - no one’s going to be going to restaurants and theatres after this. When we come out of this the economy is going to be crashed.

“Businesses are going to have to think about whether they can take out that loan.”

“What concerns me about Norwich is that we are fortunate that we have a lot of small independent businesses but their only option is to take out a loan to stay afloat.

“It’s really, really worrying. It’s done nothing to stop individuals from panicking.”

But speaking during the press conference, prime minister Boris Johnson said the government would “do whatever it takes to support the economy”.

He said: “We will support jobs, we will support incomes, we will support businesses… we will do whatever it takes.”

And Mr Sunak, who unveiled his first budget just last week, vowed that if measures already announced were not enough, he would go further still.

“I said whatever it takes, and I meant it,” he added.

MORE: Chancellor announces £330bn support package for businesses

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