“We will get through this together,” was the big message from the Chancellor Rishi Sunak as he delivered his first Budget statement in the House of Commons.
Mr Sunak said he was committing £30 billion worth of spending towards tackling the outbreak of the Coronavirus and limiting its impact on the economy.
Chief among the announcements to support small businesses was the news that business rates would be abolished for the year for businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with a rateable value below £51,000. Elsewhere, he said the UK’s business rates system would be reviewed, while discounts for pubs will increase from £1,000 to £5,000.
The Chancellor also announced that statutory sick pay will be given to all workers who choose to self-isolate, even if they don’t have symptoms. And businesses with fewer than 250 employees will have their sick pay payments refunded by the government covering a two week period of isolation.
Small businesses will able to access loans up to £1.2 million to help protect them from “business interruption” caused by Coronavirus, the Chancellor said.
As expected, Mr Sunak confirmed that the government will be spending £600bn on improving transport, housing and broadband infrastructure projects over the course of this Parliament.
He also reported the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR)’s latest forecasts for the economy and its growth. The economy is expected to grow 1.1% in 2020, however, Mr Sunak warned that these forecasts did take into account the impact of Coronavirus. The 2021-11 financial year is set to see growth of 1.8% before falling to 1.5% and 1.3% in the following two years.
The Budget statement also revealed that the Entrepreneurs’ Relief scheme will continue. There had been plenty of speculation that the scheme may be scrapped altogether, but lifetime allowance will be cut from £10 million to £1m.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Bank of England announced that interest rates would be cut from 0.75% to 0.25% in an emergency move, as well a £100bn fund to encourage commercial banks to increase lending, particularly to small and medium-sized enterprises.