The Public Accounts Committee, a select group of MPs responsible for overseeing government expenditures, has called for greater “transparency” in relation to the destination of furlough expenditure.
The committee has claimed that as many as 2.9 million workers may have been excluded from the Coronavirus Job Support Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), as a result of policy decisions, HMRC data limitations, and the prioritisation of speed.
While the taxpayer had reportedly covered £55bn for the two schemes by 18 October, with a further £21bn forecasted to be spent on the latest extensions, the group from the House of Commons has highlighted that many freelancers and entrepreneurs “have not had a penny”.
Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: “With billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money going into private companies to support jobs, the least we expect in return is transparency.
“Many workers including freelancers and entrepreneurs have not had a penny and are really struggling as they continue to fall through the gaps. There is data that could be crunched to reach and help these individuals, many of whom will be unable to work at all under Tier 3 restrictions.”
A lack of data has been singled out as a concern by the group, who has questioned why the treasury cannot even provide a “ballpark figure” for the cost of Covid-19 job support.
Hillier added: “Public scrutiny of where taxpayers’ money is going is essential. We want to see the list of the companies that have taken furlough money much sooner than that – in the next six weeks.”