Cut some slack – these are huge changes

There has, quite rightly and very movingly, been a massive wave of support for all the front-line workers in the UK who are putting themselves at risk during the Coronavirus crisis to keep the public safe.

That was underlined by this week’s Clap for Carers, which got a massive, and very emotional, response right across the UK.

Let’s hope that when we have emerged from this very difficult time, that empathy will remain in place.

If you scour the internet, it will not be that easy to find many kind and sympathetic words for the Treasury or the HMRC.

At a time like this it is natural for us to look inward and consider our own personal circumstances and to consider what is good for our families but as I watched Rishi Sunak unveil his support package for the self-employed, it hit home just the level of transformation that must be going on inside HMRC.

I presume that like the vast majority of the population, they will have staff working from home but now more than ever they are key workers.

Often it takes years to implement fiscal changes, and they are announced after months of consultation with stakeholders and industry bodies, but these transformational schemes are now having to be set in place in days and weeks – and the economic fabric of the UK depends on them being delivered on time.

The Chancellor had only been in his job for 35 days when he announced the furloughing measures, which will see the Government pay 80 per cent of staff wages up to £2,500 for three months, and he is widely seen as having delivered a well-considered, but unprecedented, package of support.

Yet, he had hardly walked off our screens on Thursday evening when the media and – for almost the first time since the Covid crisis started to bite the UK economy – opposition parties started to criticise.

Of course, plans have to be scrutinised but, when you consider his latest measures for the self-employed, of which there are five million people in this country working in vastly different sectors, doing vastly different jobs, in vastly different circumstances and they all have to be processed and the possibility of fraud has to be considered and eradicated and this may take time – not months and months but a few days.

All bankruptcy petitions going through courts have been adjourned to at least June 12, while today it was announced that banks have agreed to extend mortgage offer deadlines, so it is clear that seemingly inflexible institutions are adjusting to the extraordinary circumstances before them and some slack is being cut.

Let’s hope that air of co-operation can be maintained long into the future – who knows perhaps a whole new way of conducting business will become the norm, but don’t bank on it just yet!