Kate writes a bi-weekly column for the Burton Mail. This column was originally featured in the 11th March print edition.
Last week Rishi Sunak delivered his second budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was just over a year ago, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, that the Government promised the British people it would do whatever it takes to provide security and stability to see us through this crisis. The budget announcement of £407 billion of support for families, jobs and businesses, over this year and next, delivers on that promise. Coronavirus has damaged our economy severely and this was a budget designed to protect jobs and livelihoods with a three-part plan aimed at supporting people and businesses through the crisis, beginning to fix the public finances, and building our future economy.
Firstly, to provide certainty, support has been extended well beyond the end of the roadmap. The Furlough scheme has been extended until the end of September, there will be two further grants for the self-employed, as well as restart grants to help businesses get going again. In addition to these measures, local councils will be provided with £425 million discretionary funding to support other local businesses.
Many businesses that I have spoken to requested an extension to the business rates holiday as well as the VAT cut so I was pleased to see the Chancellor announce that the business rates holiday has been extended until June and the VAT cut extended for a further six months until the end of September. I am particaurly pleased by these measures which will be a much welcome lifeline to our pubs and hospitality industry across Burton and Uttoxeter. Many of our biggest employers are in this sector and this funding will be the kickstart they need to what is promising to be a good summer for them to bounce back from the last 12 months.
The Government also continues to support the lowest paid and most vulnerable in our society. The Chancellor confirmed that the Government will continue the temporary £20 uplift for Universal Credit payments for a further six months. The National Living Wage is also set to increase to £8.91 from April and in a further move, will be extended to people over 23.
The Government has been committed to supporting people and business through this crisis and as a result , unemployment is now estimated to peak at far lower levels than previously expected, and our economy is now forecast to recover faster than previously thought as well. There is a long way to go, but we will weather this storm and there will be brighter days ahead.