Rishi Sunak announced his Budget to the House of Commons this afternoon – revealing the government’s financial blueprint for recovery after one of the most tumultuous economic years on record.
Whilst the image of the Chancellor holding aloft the iconic red briefcase always attracts interest, the build-up to ‘Budget 2021’ had been accompanied by considerable buzz.
Many businesses have only been permitted to trade for a few months since COVID-19 first forced Britain into lockdown last March, whereas some sectors have remained closed entirely.
With an ‘irreversible’ roadmap to reopen the economy now published, millions have been speculating as to whether financial support will remain available – and how the country will get back on its feet.
Here’s a breakdown of everything Sunak had to say in his address to MPs on March 3.
What was in the 2021 Budget?
Sunak’s debut Budget in March 2020 was an anomaly; including a series of policies designed to manage the economic impact of a deadly virus which was, back then, only in its infancy.
But the pandemic quickly spiralled out of control in the aftermath of that address, and the Chancellor has been forced to make regular interventions ever since to keep the economy afloat.
On Wednesday, Sunak announced how the country planned to recover from its £355 billion debt incurred during the past 365 days, as well the financial support that will be accessible.
Sunak unveiled a three-part plan to “protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people”, predicting a “swifter and more sustained recovery” to pre-COVID levels by the middle of 2022.
The furlough scheme will be extended
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has resulted in millions of employees being furloughed since March – with the government covering 80% of wages for hours staff cannot work.
Around 11 million jobs have been protected as a result.
The Chancellor confirmed on Wednesday that this furlough scheme is set to be extended until September 2021.
However, as the economy reopens again, employers will be expected to make contributions.
From July, companies will need to pay 10% towards furlough payments. This will increase to 20% in August and September.
The National Living Wage will be increased to £8.91 from April.
Self-employed support will continue
The Chancellor also confirmed further support for the self-employed in the weeks ahead.
This includes a fourth grant covering February to April, and a fifth grant from May.
Sunak added: “As the tax return deadline has now passed, 600,000 more people, many of whom became self-employed last year, can now claim the 4th and 5th grants.”
Grants are being made available for retail, hospitality and personal care companies
‘Restart Grants’ worth £5 billion are being introduced to support businesses before reopening.
This includes grants of up £18,000 for pubs, hairdressers and gyms.
Non-essential retail premises will be able to claim up to £6,000.
The 5% reduced rate of VAT will also be extended for six months to September 30 – with an interim rate of 12.5% for six months.
Business rates relief will continue until the end of June.
Apprentice incentive payments are being increased
To help get young people into jobs, the Chancellor has also announced that apprentice incentive payments for businesses will be increased.
“Today we’re doubling the apprentice incentive payments we give businesses to £3,000 – that’s for all new hires, of any age,” he stated.
The Stamp Duty cut is being extended
Sunak also confirmed that the Stamp Duty cut will be extended by three months.
The Chancellor stated: “The new £500,000 nil rate band for Stamp Duty won’t end on March 31, it will end on the June 30.
“Then, to smooth the transition back to normal, the nil rate band will be £250,000, double its standard level, until the end of September.”
Planned duty increases for alcohol and fuel are being cancelled
Elsewhere in the Budget, the Chancellor announced that planned increases in duties for spirits like Scotch whisky, wine, cider and beer will all be cancelled.
The planned increase in fuel duty is also being cancelled.
Paying back the debt…
In an attempt to pay back the money borrowed to fund the government’s COVID economic recovery packages – which has led to the highest rate of UK borrowing since World War II – Sunak said that he would be freezing personal tax thresholds.
Corporation tax will increase to 25% from April 2023.
The Chancellor pledged not to raise the rates of income tax, national insurance, or VAT.
“Nobody’s take home pay will be less than it is now, as a result of this,” Sunak stated.
“It is a tax policy that is progressive and fair.”
Fans of the space queued down the street for its final few days in Bethnal Green, before its eventual closure on Wednesday 1 February.
Their statement said: “Sad news. We’ve received notice to vacate our premises at Bethnal Green by the end of this week. As a property guardianship, we’ve always been aware that we may be asked to leave with very short notice. We’re disappointed that it has come so soon.
“@Enter_theVenue the creative hub with whom we share our space, have also been asked to leave. The Vagina Museum will continue to operate in the digital world as we search for a new home.”
The message continued: “We’re sad about this development, but incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished in the ten months we’ve been at our Bethnal Green premises. We’ve welcomed more than 40,000 visitors through our doors, and received so much love and positive feedback.
“In our time at Bethnal Green, we’ve once again demonstrated just how much the world needs and wants a Vagina Museum.
“Times are, once again, uncertain for us, but we’ve been through this before and risen stronger than ever. With a community like you supporting us, we know we can get through this too.
“We’re actively searching for a new home, and if you know of any vacant spaces (or have one yourself!) please don’t hesitate to reach out. In our home in Bethnal Green, we and ENTER demonstrated that we can transform an empty, unused building into a thriving heart of a community.
“If you don’t have a building, you can still help! Please consider making a donation; a donation of any size makes a huge difference and will help us to weather this storm, just as we’ve weathered storms before.”
The Vagina Museum concluded its thread with: “We’ve made it through a pandemic and a period of temporary homelessness before. With you, together, we can make it through this too.”
Gary Neville addresses ‘clumsy like’ on Tweet about Mason Greenwood ￼
Gary Neville has said that his liking of a tweet about Mason Greenwood has been ‘misinterpreted’.
The former Manchester United legend and football pundit set off a Twitter storm last night after he ‘liked’ two tweets by Nazir Afzal, and briefly retweeted one.
The tweets in question said that Greenwood was an ‘innocent man’ and added that ‘you are innocent until PROVEN guilty’.
Mason Greenwood had all criminal charges against him dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.
He had faced allegations of rape, controlling and coercive behaviour, and assault, all against the same woman.
The CPS said that Greenwood case had been stopped because of ‘the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material that came to light’, adding that there was no longer a ‘realistic prospect of conviction’.
Several people noticed that Neville had liked a tweet about Greenwood’s ‘innocence’ and quickly challenged him on it.
One person shared a screenshot and wrote: “You have a massive platform and you’re liking bulls**t like this just because the monster plays for a team you support. you’re disgusting @GNev2.”
He posted: “I liked a tweet relating to the Mason Greenwood news this afternoon from Nazir Afzal. ( the former director of public prosecutions ).
“This like is being misinterpreted. It was a clumsy like as I obviously condemn any violence against women.”
Greenwood issued a short statement yesterday, writing: “I am relieved that this matter is now over and I would like to thank my family, loved ones and friends for their support. There will be no further comment at this time.”
Featured image: Instagram, @garyneville2 / publicity picture