As businesses continue to be adversely affected by the corona virus lockdown, accountant Andy Gill thinks more needs to be done to help those who have been worst affected.
The owner of AG Accounting Services Ltd has written his thoughts down for Express:
"Chris Green, head of Scrutiny has questioned the level of States funding for the covid business measures, in particular the rationale for using 80% of the minimum wage as the base point for the payroll scheme, especially when Jersey is over 50% more generous at £1,600 per employee, and the UK up to £2,500 per employee per month – or over 140% more. He says he has asked P and R for an explanation, but none has been forthcoming. I would also note as well that the UK is providing significant grants for the hospitality sector and write off of business rates for some sectors. Grants for small business in Guernsey are capped at £3,000 in total, whilst self-employed in the UK can get up to £2,500 per month.
Earlier in March I had a conversation with senior staff and a deputy on Economic Development and Treasury and was told what Guernsey “couldn’t afford”. The reason given was that Guernsey had some very large cheques to write, and not just to do with these measures. They also had to budget for the cost of coming out of lock down and the future recovery. At the time, I also questioned the headline figure for the estimated cost of the business measures at £41m, as by my rough calculations, after tax and social security contributions, the net outlay reduced to £27m. Given that an unemployed person would have to be paid unemployment benefit (assuming they qualified for the maximum) then the additional cost of the payroll scheme, to the States, worked out at around just £20 per employee per week.
Hopefully, at the time of publication, lock-down restrictions will have eased. Even in stage four though, many sectors will still be still adversely affected, and some people will be on the breadline. Face-to-face business, hospitality and travel will probably be most restricted and other sectors are still operating so far below normal levels that it will take time for them to recover. It isn’t too late to help them.
As many of those affected will possibly be deferring their mortgages, paying them more money should result in increased consumption i.e. more money put straight back into the economy, because people will be spending, not saving or paying off debt. In normal circumstances this form of spending could cause excess inflation – too much demand chasing too few goods. Not true now. In other words, looking at the long-term view, increasing the amounts given to businesses and individuals who are in need should result in boosting the economy at a time when it really needs it.
Pictured: Chief Executive of the States, Paul Whitfield is leading the civil service response to the pandemic.
Part of States of Guernsey culture, at least for some, is to keep money, not to give it away. Currently, I believe that this is counterproductive. The States is now borrowing substantial amounts, so the argument that we “can’t afford” is far less justifiable given the amounts involved. Chris Green reported that to-date, Guernsey had spent £7m to Jersey’s £50m on the payroll scheme.
We are not really all in this together. Many people are on full wage including all States employees, whether working or not - and this using taxpayers’ money. Some measures have improved over time, and, at the time of print, hopefully some measures will have been improved further. But if not, please, please let’s improve the lot of those who are worst affected. It isn’t too late.
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Pictured top: Andy Gill.