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UK to double support for self-employed during England's lockdown

FILE PHOTO: A person looks at the adverts in the window of a job agency in London, Britain October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday self-employed workers would receive government support equivalent to 80% of their pre-crisis profits during November’s four-week lockdown in England, up from 40% previously.

England will enter a second lockdown on Thursday, which will close restaurants, pubs and non-essential shops until at least Dec. 2, although unlike the first lockdown in late March and April, schools will stay open for all pupils.

Employees who are put on furlough will receive 80% of their wages, up from 67% under more recent plans to scale back support, and on Monday Johnson said more generous support would be available for the self-employed too.

“For November, we will double our support from 40 to 80% of trading profits,” Johnson told parliament.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak said the step meant the government would be providing 4.5 billion pounds of support for the self-employed between November and January, on top of 13.7 billion pounds already spent.

Britain’s budget deficit this financial year is forecast to swell to its highest since World War Two at around 20% of GDP or 400 billion pounds.

The aid to the self-employed is provided in three-month grants, so support for the November to January period will be equivalent to 55% of pre-crisis profits, with a maximum grant of 5,160 pounds per self-employed worker.

Businesses will continue to be able to apply to banks for government-backed support loans until Jan. 31, compared with a previous Nov. 30 deadline for some of the programmes.

Reporting by William James and William Schomberg, writing by David Milliken; editing by Michael Holden

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