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Coronavirus Kent: Fund to help self-employed workers should be set up in Medway, says Labour councillor Vince Maple

Self-employed workers should be supported with a dedicated hardship fund, a councillor says.

The government's measures to support non-salaried employees working for themselves or in small companies has been criticised as not going far enough to support thousands of people in Medway.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced funding for businesses on Friday. Picture: Matt Dunham/PA Wire
Chancellor Rishi Sunak with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced funding for businesses on Friday. Picture: Matt Dunham/PA Wire

Medway's Labour leader Vince Maple is calling on Medway Council to follow other local authorities around the country in setting up a "hardship fund" specifically for workers from the Towns.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced "unprecdented" levels of funding for businesses on Friday – including paying 80% of people's wages for those laid off as firms shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Today, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, told MPs in parliament there were expected to be further announcements for self-employed workers "in the next couple of days".

But Cllr Maple says there needs to more help for people locally.

He said: "I want to ensure residents and families get that support."

Cllr Vince Maple, Labour leader at Medway Council
Cllr Vince Maple, Labour leader at Medway Council

Cllr Maple said there were different models which the fund could take but added ways other councils have set up measures needed to be observed.

"There's not a prescribed way but we need that fund and to work on a cross-party basis to move that forward.

"At this stage it's looking at what other councils are doing and bringing that best practice locally.

"The self-employed and zero-hours contract workers would need to access that as quickly as possible.

"For people who get 80% of their salary but are on low income, that 20% can make all the difference."

Cllr Maple says he hopes to raise the idea to the new Medway Council Cross Party Working Group – set up to inform councillors about how the authority can deal with the impact of the pandemic.

Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford
Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford

Leader of Medway Council, Alan Jarrett said the council is currently following the government's guidance on financial support as it is in all areas.

Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch, who represents more than 5,000 self-employed people in her constituency, said: "The big issue from a business perspective is self-employed people. I and other colleagues are trying to improve the package for them."

Asked whether she would support a locally administered hardship fund through the council, Ms Crouch said it was an issue for the government to deal with in the first instance.

The MP says she will donate the majority of her salary to people who have lost income because they are out of work and those who require help from domestic abuse services.

The Kent Community Foundation has set up a Coronavirus Emergency Fund to help voluntary organisations which support vulnerable people in the community.

The foundation says it hopes the grants of up to £10,000 will help smaller grassroots organisations sustain themselves to carry on their vital work in Kent and Medway.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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