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.”
Woman who protested alone outside Chanel show labelled ‘a queen’
A woman who staged a lone protest outside the Chanel show in Manchester last week has been inundated with praise from locals.
The woman was positioned on High Street, mere metres from where a-list celebrities and high-fashion models were parading for the fashion giant.
The fact that the exclusive event took place in Manchester has been considered a huge coup for the city, and one which will have had a significant economic impact.
But the woman outside the Chanel show chose the opportunity to highlight the stark contrast between the luxurious fashion show and the harsh reality of many living in poverty in our city.
She held a sign that read: “Over 250,000 children living in poverty in Manchester. Higher than UK average.
“Manchester has one of the highest level of homelessness. 1 in 74 people. 7407 and rising!
“Where have you hidden the homeless Andy??”
Speaking about Chanel, she told photographer Project Certi: “No one was consulted about this. It’s not for the people of Manchester. You can come here if you want a celebrity spot but that’s not for you.
“This sort of thing moves around the world, they’ll have it somewhere weird and wonderful every year, and this is kind of like, capitalising on the working class history of Manchester.
“The poster’s got, ironically, the suffragettes on it, you know, people fighting for rights. They’re using images from the Hacienda, they’re using music of Joy Division and New Order, all of that what made Manchester on the music map all came out working class struggle. It all came during Thatcher and the attack on the working class, which is exactly what we’re seeing now with 12 years of austerity.”
She also highlighted the man who died on the street in the Gay Village on a night where temperatures dropped, and the ‘cr*ppy B&Bs’ that homeless people find themselves housed in.
Speaking of the impact of Chanel on Manchester though, Deputy Leader Luthfur Rahman OBE said: “The impact of the decision by CHANEL to hold its prestigious Métiers d’Art show here in Manchester is something that is already resonating with people around the globe and is going to continue to be felt by the city for quite some time.
“It speaks volumes about the regard in which Manchester is already held across the world, but more importantly it also sends a clear signal to international businesses and the international visitor economy that Manchester is the place to be.
“It’s impossible at this stage to even begin to quantify the economic impact hosting the event has had on the city, or to put a figure on it. The true impact will involve not just the direct spend and income generated within the city over these last few weeks leading up to and during the event, but also the longer-term benefits that will come from the massive boost to Manchester’s profile that CHANEL has given the city, that in turn translates into more visitors coming to see what Manchester has to offer, and more businesses choosing to invest here.
“It has been without doubt quite a moment for Manchester, not least coming as it does off the back of many other significant moments for the city this year, that together place Manchester in absolute pole position on the world’s stage for the years ahead.”
In the comments on Project Certi’s video, one person wrote: “Thank you for giving this woman a platform.”
Another wrote: “Whoever this woman is, she’s a legend. As are you for capturing it.”
Someone else posted: “I have so much respect for this woman, I’d love to meet her and let her know she’s not alone in her feelings towards this.”
One comment said: “She is such a queen, bang on with everything she’s saying.”
Unexpected Manchester city centre street named ‘one of the most polluted’ in the UK
A new fieldwork study has revealed the worst air polluted city centre streets in the UK, and a popular Manchester thoroughfare has been named one of the worst.
Except, it’s really not the street you’d expect it to be.
For some bizarre reason, despite the fact it’s a pedestrianised commercial shopping street in the heart of Manchester city centre, Market Street has been named one of the most polluted streets in the country.
Recordings were taken at high streets in the 25 largest towns and cities in the country over a two-week period, and the results found that 76% are exceeding the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended annual level of air pollution, The Hoot reports.
The study enlisted a planning consultancy to collect samples using an air quality monitoring device at 11am on either a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to ensure as much comparability as possible between the locations.
The study comes after a poll of 2,000 adults found that 36% have concerns over the health of the community due to air pollution, or the health of their family (26%) or themselves (25%).
Speaking on the shocking findings from the new study, Sam Clarke, who is the chief vehicle officer at the sustainable energy business, said: “With millions set to hit the high street this festive period, we wanted to look at the state of the nation’s air quality in the locations people will be doing most of their Christmas shopping.
“It’s shocking to see that so many were above the World Health Organisation’s annual recommendations for air pollution, and that one in 10 shoppers are even planning on foregoing the highstreets altogether due to air quality.”
20 streets in the UK were over the recommended World Health Organisation recommended levels of 5 µg/m3).
The Most-Polluted Streets in the UK
Stoke-On-Trent (Parliament Street) – 11.7
Newcastle (Northumberland Street) – 11.5
Leicester (Gallowtree Gate) – 11.2
Coventry (West Orchards Way) – 11.1
Hull (Jameston Street) – 10.7
Bradford (Broadway) – 10.6
Southampton (Above Bar Street) – 8.8
Nottingham (High Street) – 7.7
Luton (George Street) – 7.6
Manchester (Market Street) – 7.6
Northampton (Abington Street) – 7.3
Birmingham New Street – 7.3
Liverpool (Church Street) – 7.1
Derby (St Peter’s Street) – 6.9
London (Oxford Street) – 6.8
Sheffield (Fargate) – 6.3
Brighton (Western Road) – 5.6
Leeds (Briggate) – 5.3
Portsmouth (Commercial Road) – 5.1
“If we’re to reach the World Health Organisation’s annual target of 5 µg/m3 of PM2.5 in our air, collectively we need to change our behaviours,” Sam Clarke added.
“With vehicle emissions being a key contributor, anything we can do to travel more greenly, from walking more to cycling, and including electric vehicles, is a very valuable set forward to improve the air we breathe daily.”