Budget 2021: Updates and reaction as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces corporation tax hike, New UK freeports and Treasury’s Darlington move

Budget Updates and reaction as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces corporation tax hike new UK freeports and Treasurys Darlington move
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It’s one of the most highly-anticipated Budget speeches in years.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has laid out the Government’s spending and taxation plans in his crucial Budget speech, announcing a raft of measures including a corporation tax hike, new freeport locations and the Treasury’s move north.

All eyes were on Mr Sunak at lunchtime as he took to the despatch box following Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons for the second Budget of his tenure.

He announced a flurry of new measures including a new Treasury site in Darlington, new freeports in eight locations across the UK, and £1bn in funding for 45 new Town Deals.

That’s as well as corporation tax rising to 25% for large companies.

He told MPs: “Today we set out a plan to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people but the promises that underpin that plan remain unchanged from those we pledged ourselves to 12 long months ago.

“To unite and lead, to level up, to create a world-class education system, to keep our streets safe, to keep our NHS strong, to support the most vulnerable, to reform and improve public services, to grow the economy, to spread prosperity, to extend the awesome power of opportunity to all corners of the United Kingdom, and, yes, to be honest and fair in all that we do.

“An important moment is upon us. A moment of challenge and of change. Of difficulties, yes, but of possibilities too. This is a Budget that meets that moment.”

The new policies were in addition to an extension to the furlough scheme – set to now run until September, with the Covid pandemic having created a £43bn black hole in Government finances..

It was described as the “most important” day in the history of the hospitality sector.

Follow below for our BusinessLive coverage of Budget day – including all of the build-up, updates and reaction to Mr Sunak’s crucial speech:

Catch up on all of the highlights from today’s Budget

After a bumper edition of The Budget, you can catch up on all of the key announcements the Chancellor made in the House of Commons, as well as all of the regional and national reaction on Business Live.

Chancellor Of The Exchequer, Rishi Sunak stands outside 11 Downing Street ahead of the delivery of his Budget

And that’s your lot – Budget Day is officially over!

Chancellor winds up the Downing Street briefing.

Chancellor rules out request to bring forward re-opening of economy

Asked whether the success of the vaccine roll-out could mean Covid restrictions being lifted earlier, Mr Sunak says dates in the Prime Minister’s are the earliest when re-opening can take place.

He pays tribute to the scientists involved in the development of vaccines.

Mr Sunak asked about favouring Conservative areas

Mr Sunak is accused of ‘pork barrel politics’ after it emerges 40 of 45 towns benefitting from Towns Fund announced today are in Conservative seats.

He says the measures announced today are benefitting all areas of the UK – though it’s fair to say some local leaders will probably disagree.

Chancellor going over previous ground in press briefing

Fair to say that there’s not exactly any surprises in this briefing (as perhaps is to be expected after a lengthy statement in Parliament earlier).

Most of the questions have seen Mr Sunak going over what has already been said by Mr Sunak, though he is facing some tough questions on taxation for businesses.

Chancellor defends raising tax burden

Mr Sunak is asked about rising levels of tax and says the Government’s response is inevitable given the levels of spending during the pandemic.

He says what is important is what the Government will do with those taxes.

Chancellor says new tax measures are ‘fair’

Asked about how the freezing of tax thresholds will bring a million more people into the income tax system, Mr Sunak says the measures are fair.

He adds that the UK will still have the lowest corporation tax even when measures announced today come into force in two years time.

He says the Super Deduction will encourage companies to invest to spark the recovery.

‘Our recovery will begin today’, Chancellor says

Chancellor mentions those who have died in the coronavirus pandemic before turning to questions from the public.

Vaccines success shows ‘this country can be a scientific superpower’

Chancellor says the Budget helps people develop new skills and get better paid jobs.

He says Budget will benefit all of the country with freeports around England and a tax cut that encourages investment.

‘We have to get borrowing and debt back under control’

Chancellor says we have to act when the economy has recovered to reduce borrowing.

He says moves to fix the public finances will aim to protect working people, small people and public services.

Personal tax thresholds will be frozen he said, but direct taxes will not be raised, he said. Large businesses who have made a profit will be asked to contribute, he says.

The Chancellor outlines how taxes on corporate profits will rise in 2023, though smaller businesses will be protected.

Chancellor begins public briefing on Budget

Rishi Sunak is beginning a public briefing and press conference on the Budget.

He outlines how the Government has spent £280bn on various pandemic-related support packages, saying they have kept unemployment down.

But it will take a “long time to fully recover from the damage done to the economy”, he says.

Chancellor set to give news conference at 5pm

Rishi Sunak will take questions at a Downing Street news conference hours after announcing The Budget in the House of Commons. Stay here for more updates and reaction.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget.

TaxPayers’ Alliance reacts to Chancellor’s taxation plans for businesses

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said that while there were “some wins” for taxpayers in today’s Budget, “£30 billion worth of tax increases will hit hard-pressed households and businesses already under the highest tax burden in 70 years.”

On the Chancellor’s taxation plans for businesses, Mr O’Connell said: “The investment super deduction will sweeten the pill of massive corporation tax hikes.

“The tax breaks will jump-start investment, but the sudden rise in the headline rate will hammer Britain’s big employers at a time when millions are on the verge of joining the dole queue.

“Making the investment allowances permanent and keeping corporation tax down will build in huge benefits for employment, productivity and the economy as a whole.”

Key points from the Chancellor’s Spring Budget

As reaction to the Chancellor’s Budget continues to come in from politicians and businesses, perhaps it’s time for a recap on some of the key announcements Rishi Sunak made this lunchtime.

Read 12 key points from The Budget here.

UK Finance welcomes ‘well-constructed’ Budget

David Postings, Chief Executive of UK Finance, said: “The Chancellor has set out a bold plan to support the economy in today’s Budget.

“The banking and finance industry has taken unprecedented action over the last year to support businesses and customers, and we will continue to work closely with the Government to help the nation get back on its feet.

“This is a well-constructed Budget that positions the UK as an open and internationally competitive place to do business and we welcome the measures set out by the Chancellor to achieve this vision.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham compares Budget to “a packet of Polos”

Commenting on the budget at an online press conference, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “I would describe it as a packet of Polos budget – in some ways refreshing but also full of holes.”

He welcomed the extension of furlough and the uplift in Universal Credit as well as more support for the self-employed, but called for more to be done for those excluded from the public support during the pandemic.

Mr Burnham said the absence of a mention of social care was “something of an insult”.

He said: “Almost a year into the pandemic to have a budget where no mention is made of social care is, really, a glaring omission.”

He also raised concerns the Northern Powerhouse was not mentioned by the Chancellor.

He said: “It is noticeable that that talk is dying down and we are seeing more localised investments being prioritised.

Andy Burnham pictured at his press conference in Manchester on October 20, 2020 (Image: Manchester Evening News)

Mayor of the West of England welcomes hospitality support but ‘disappointed’ on failed bid for freeport in Bristol region

The Mayor of the West of England Tim Bowles said: “There have been a lot of excellent schemes announced by the Chancellor at the Budget which will help support jobs and secure our region’s economy, particularly the initiatives to keep taxes low for struggling businesses and families.”

Mr Bowles added he was “bitterly disappointed” a bid for a so-called Great Western Freeport based around Bristol Port was not selected and that he was looking forward to “a prompt and detailed explanation” from ministers about why it was not taken forward.

Budget needed ‘clearer strategy’ for tackling unemployment

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has welcomed the extensions to the furlough scheme, the deferral period for VAT and business rates as well as expanding access to grants for the self-employed.

But its Chief Executive Neil Carberry said there was “no sign” in the Budget of a support scheme for owner-operators of small limited companies, who he said had so far received “no help at all.”

Mr Carberry said: “Where the Budget missed the mark was on the plan for recovery. There are bright spots – the new super deduction tax incentive will certainly address a long-term failing of UK policy and boost productivity and job creation.

“But what we needed from this Budget was a clearer strategy for tackling unemployment and resourcing growth. There was little on the skills transition this requires, including reforming the failed Apprenticeship Levy so that it supports rather than hinders training.

“A flexible skills levy would deliver better apprenticeships for young people and allow older workers to do the qualifications they need, rather than the ones Government is willing to fund.”

Prime Minister says Budget will help ‘unleash’ UK’s potential

Boris Johnson has shown his support for the Budget. The Prime Minister tweeted: “Throughout the pandemic we stepped in to protect jobs and livelihoods. This Budget continues that support and sets out our plan for growth.

“We’re investing in innovation, skills and infrastructure to build back better, level up and unleash the potential of the United Kingdom.”

Darlington Treasury ‘will not level up the country’

In a statement on The Budget Centre for Cities’ Chief Executive Andrew Carter said: “The extension to furlough and the Universal Credit increase will be a relief to people in places hit hard by the pandemic.

“However, the Chancellor’s vision for our economic recovery is too centralised. Governing directly from the Treasury – whether in London or Darlington – will not level up the country.

“Rather than moving civil servants out of Whitehall, the Government should be moving powers and money out and handing them over to local leaders who understand their areas and the challenges that people face.”

Live music industry reaction with calls for insurance scheme to support festivals

Greg Parmley, chief executive of Live, the UK’s official industry body for live music, has called for an insurance scheme to support festivals.

He said: “We warmly welcome the additional financial support the Chancellor announced in his Budget today, which is due recognition from Government that the live music industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

“The extension of the reduced 5% rate of VAT, in particular, will provide significant support to businesses who have had their revenue decimated over the past year.

“The extension of the furlough and other employment support schemes will also be hugely important across the industry.

“Today’s Budget focused on helping live music to survive the long months of closure still ahead of us – and we desperately need that. But we also call on the Chancellor to look again at a Government-backed insurance scheme, which would ensure we can recover, and get people back to work, as quickly as possible once it is safe to lift restrictions.”

GMB union calls Budget ‘kick in the teeth’ to key workers

Warren Kenny, Acting General Secretary of the GMB union, which has more the 600,000 members, said:

“Warm words don’t pay the bills. The Chancellor might get some likes on Instagram, but he won’t be getting any love from public service workers who will feel like this Budget is a kick in the teeth after everything they’ve done for the country throughout this pandemic.

“Not a penny extra will go to the pockets of our key workers, it’s a national scandal.

“The lack of action on the super spreader policy of poverty Statutory Sick Pay rates is simply an abrogation of duty.

“You can’t talk about helping the poorest and leave this unchanged. Those who can’t afford to self-isolate and pay the bills won’t do so, they will feel they have no choice but to risk going to work rather than get into debt.

“We keep being told we’re not out of the woods yet – I agree – so it’s shocking that this Budget did nothing to address this.

“Once again, workers in critical industries such as social care, aviation, cash and transit were crying out for the specific support and investment that they desperately need.

“Once again, all this Government could offer was platitudes and a failure of leadership.”

SIBA Chief Executive says smaller independent breweries ‘de-prioritised’ by the Chancellor

James Calder, chief executive of the Society of Independent Brewers Association (SIBA) Chief Executive said:

“Today, the Chancellor spent an extraordinary amount of taxpayers money to help keep the economy moving and jobs protected, pledging almost £59bn to policies including furlough extensions, continued business rates cuts, grants for hospitality of up to £9,000 and a series of investment initiatives.

“Whilst this is helpful to the broad hospitality sector, it does nothing for the nation’s struggling independent breweries, who desperately needed direct tax cuts and targeted grant support to help them survive until the economy re-opens. What is the point in helping hospitality if there aren’t vibrant, diverse and local beers on offer when the economy re-opens?

“As a result of today’s announcements more breweries are now more than likely than ever to close, just as there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“Breweries and wet led pubs will not benefit from the VAT cut extension as it does not apply to alcohol. Breweries will still be paying full business rates, VAT and duty and will not receive specific grant support – and whilst freezing beer duty is welcome, the Chancellor is still intending to increase the tax bill for at least 150 small breweries from next January with ruinous changes to small breweries’ relief, putting jobs and the recovery at risk.

“The recovery loan scheme which takes forward CBILS and Bounceback loans will benefit breweries and many will take advantage, but will continue to saddle them with debt, rather than direct grant support, inhibiting growth and investment in the sector for years to come.

“Restart grants of up to £18,000 per hospitality business will help businesses plan, but once again, it doesn’t look like breweries are automatically included within the definition, therefore are at the mercy of discretionary grants. Different local authorities may grant one business support, one not. One may do this in weeks, others in months.

“The ‘Super Deduction’ policy announcement, giving companies investing in qualifying new plant and machinery assets a 130% super-deduction capital allowance on their tax bills may be beneficial, but detail as to which taxes can be offset against is not yet published.

“Whilst this Budget will likely be celebrated by the broader hospitality sector, it comes as a disappointment to the Nation’s struggling small breweries and their supply chain, who have once again been de-prioritised by the Chancellor.”

Northern Powerhouse Partnership welcomes new freeports

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, added: “Liverpool, Humberside and Teesside are all strategically well-placed as freeports to deliver vital economic regeneration for local communities.

“We now need better transport infrastructure and improved rail connectivity to unlock the maximum economic impact from this investment, which we hope to see in the Integrated Rail Plan later this spring.”

Northern Powerhouse Partnership: Chancellor ‘quite generous’ but ‘no silver bullet’ announced for levelling up

Representatives from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership have responded to today’s announcement from the Chancellor.

Lord Jim O’Neill, vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “The budget was generally quite generous in aiming at ensuring a strong cyclical recovery from the pandemic, assuming no new worrying Covid-19 developments. The Chancellor sensibly ignored demands for an early move to supposed fiscal sustainability.

“That said, there was no silver bullet announced today from a levelling perspective but today’s budget shows signs that the Chancellor plans to keep his promise to deliver for the north.

“Hopefully moving the Treasury to Darlington and setting up the new Infrastructure Bank in Leeds should both act as spurs to further ‘Northshoring’, where businesses are incentivised to invest or relocate here, helping growth in the long-term.

“There is still a need to deliver a clear roadmap for rebalancing the economy through a northern economic recovery plan, investing in key sectors that will boost productivity here in line with the rest of the UK. Addressing the productivity gap that lies at the root of the North-South divide is the only way to achieve real, sustainable change.”

‘Bitter disappointment’ as North East freeport bid unsuccessful and Newcastle misses out on Treasury base

Lucy Winskell, chair of the North East LEP, said: “It is with bitter disappointment that we learnt today that our bid for a North East England freeport was unsuccessful and that Newcastle would not become home to the Treasury as we had hoped.

“Our collaborative freeport bid was hugely innovative and universally supported – and critically would have enabled us to transform the lives of millions of people in a region hardest hit by Covid-19 and the EU exit.

“Our focus is now on understanding what levels of investment that government is prepared to make in the North East so we can achieve our joint ambitions of creating more and better jobs, levelling up, and further unlocking our industrial potential to allow us to play our part in contributing to UK plc.”

Morrisons latest supermarket to say it will continue to pay full business rates

Supermarket Morrisons has joined Asda in saying it will pay its business rates bill in full and will not take advantage of the three-month 100% holiday extension announced in the Budget.

Several supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Lidl and Morrisons all said they would pay their rates bills last year when the first 12-month tax holiday was introduced.

South West Business Council chairman “blown away” by Plymouth being named as a freeport

Tim Jones, chairman of South West Business Council, said he was “blown away” by Plymouth being named as a freeport, having been involved in what he calls a “last minute bid”.

“Plymouth has snuck in. We didn’t expect that at all,” he said. “But it has grasped the opportunity and been rewarded.

“The initial financial impact will be worth millions of pounds, We understand the funding available is £10million to £12million, but it is where it takesa things from there and this will be a huge boost to the economy.

“And this is not just for the marine sector but will benefit the whole of Plymouth, including the businesses in the marine supply chain. It will attract a lot of national and international investment and open doors.”

British Chambers of Commerce: ‘much to welcome’ in Budget

Giving his reaction to the Chancellor’s Budget, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “There’s much to welcome in this Budget for business communities across the UK.

“The Chancellor has listened and acted on our calls for immediate support to help struggling businesses reach the finish line of this gruelling marathon and to begin their recovery. Extensions to furlough, business rates relief and VAT reductions give firms a fighting chance not only to restart, but also to rebuild.

“We particularly welcome the massive ‘super deduction’ investment incentive that the Chancellor has put in place for the next two years. This responds directly to our call to encourage those businesses that can to invest and grow.

“While no business will relish paying higher rates of Corporation Tax in future, the impact of the Chancellor’s tough decision is blunted by the big new incentives for investment, lower rates for the smallest firms, and the extension of Coronavirus support measures in the short term.

“This Budget provides reassurance to businesses, provided that they are able to restart and rebuild according to the Government’s road map. If firms face unexpected bumps in the road, the Chancellor must be prepared to take action until the economy is firing on all cylinders again.”

Bristol hoteliers welcome support but warn more may be needed

Raphael Herzog, Chair of the Bristol Hoteliers Association, said his members welcomed the support extensions confirmed by the Chancellor but warned that further support may still be needed as the nation slowly returns to normal.

Mr Herzog said: “The budget was satisfactory overall for us. “It was, of course, a welcome relief when the Chancellor confirmed extensions to the furlough scheme, business rates holiday and VAT reduction.

“But we had hoped that these would remain at their current levels for the next 12 months in order to help us fully recover from the impact of the pandemic.

“We rely on large companies and travel for corporate business and meetings and still have concerns about whether this element of our business will be ready and willing to return to us in September.

“However, we are pleased that the Chancellor has extended the support available, as this will certainly help, and will provide us with some short-term stability and a platform from which we can now prepare to re-open our doors and welcome people back to our businesses, hopefully from 17 May.”

Asda to pay its full business rates while ‘Covid remains a threat’

Supermarket Asda has said it will continue to pay its business rates bill in full during 2021-22 and will not accept the offer of rates relief announced today by the Chancellor in his spring Budget.

Roger Burnley, Asda chief executive and president, said: “We have always sought to support colleagues, customers and communities during the pandemic and will continue to do so as long as Covid remains a threat.

“There are clearly many industries and businesses that have been hard hit by the pandemic and we hope that by continuing to pay business rates in full this year we can continue to support the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic.”

Law firm partner says Budget provides ‘shot in the arm’

Colin Wilson is an infrastructure partner at law firm DLA Piper in London.

“The promised £40 billion for the new National Infrastructure Bank based in Leeds provides a good first shot in the arm for the country and the infrastructure sector.

“The follow up ‘shot’ needs to inject real capital behind projects from an institution that provides confidence to the market.

“To achieve this, the new bank needs to be independent from Government and not just an extension of HM Treasury – a new bank with full banking and borrowing powers, led by experienced bankers.

“This will ensure the bank is a catalyst for private capital as opposed to competing and ‘crowding out’ the much-needed private capital to support a broad investment scope to fund a wide variety of infrastructure and energy projects £40 billion helps but more investment will also be required.

“Applying these ‘injections’ to our economy without hesitation will mean we will lead the global market in our economic recovery – to delay will lockdown our ambitions for generations to come.”

Liverpool City Region granted freeport status – here’s what it means

It’s hoped that Liverpool’s status as a freeport will create 13,800 jobs and generate 675,000sq m of commercial floorspace.

Here’s what we know so far about the move.

Freight leaving Liverpool (Image: UK Major Ports Group)

Hospitality ‘can breathe a sigh of relief’

Sacha Lord, Manchester’s nighttime economy adviser, has said hospitality can breathe ‘a sigh of relief’ following the announcement.

He said:

I am very pleased with the Chancellor’s announcements today which will go a huge way to helping operators get back on their feet.

The night time and hospitality sectors have been crying out for support, and today we can breathe a sigh of relief that we have been acknowledged.

The surprise extension to furlough to September is a welcome move, acknowledging that for the majority of operators, recovery will be a slow and steady process. This extension will allow businesses to feel more financially settled before having to bring all staff back or being forced into making redundancies, and I know this measure will save hundreds of thousands of jobs across the sector.

The business rate and hospitality VAT cuts will be a lifeline to many. We have lost a huge number of venues in the past 12 months, but with these measures in place we can now look forward and support those who have desperately hung on. There will be many business owners waking up tomorrow with renewed hope for the future of their business and their employees.

Alongside the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, I have continually called for support for the three million freelancers and self employed workers who have been excluded from any financial aid. Many of these self employed freelancers work within the night time economy and its been an injustice to watch them struggle over the past twelve with no support or recognition. Today, over 600,000 have been helped which is a good start, but there is clearly still more to be done and I hope to see further support announced for this group in due course.

Lastly, as an events organiser myself, I am concerned that the Government has still not backed a COVID indemnity insurance policy for events organisers. We have already lost the likes of Glastonbury this year, and there are hundreds of smaller events which have been cancelled due to a lack of support and policies available. However, having been involved in many APPGs on the subject, I know it is a matter Westminster and the Treasury are looking into and I will continue to push the Government on driving this through.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis

Sir Keir finishes his reply

Sir Keir has branded the Budget as a “quick fix.”

He adds that it papers over the cracks before sitting down.

This was his first time replying to a Budget as the leader of the opposition.

‘Strong case’ for permanent reduction in hospitality VAT, says Cut Tourism VAT Campaign

The Cut Tourism VAT Campaign is supported by UKHospitality, The Tourism Alliance, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), representing more than 48,000 businesses and 35 tourism and hotel groups.

It says the Chancellor’s decision to extend the reduction of VAT for hospitality and tourism businesses to five per cent by a further six months will help the industry start to get back on its feet and begin trading again.

But increasing it back up in October to 12.5 per cent does not solve the problem, it says.

“The case for a permanent reduction in hospitality VAT has never been stronger given the positive impact it has had on pricing, investment and safeguarding jobs during the pandemic.

“We will therefore be making our case to the Chancellor that he needs to show his long term support for a post-covid hospitality industry by keeping the rate of VAT on hospitality businesses at five per cent beyond the end of September and permanently.”

Sir Keir calls for Brexit deal to work for businesses

Sir Keir calls on the Government to make sure its Brexit deal works for businesses.

He adds that he awaits detail for the “super-deduction”. He welcomes the introduction of the UK Infrastructure Bank and is something that Labour has “waited for” for years.

But he also says that what the scale of what the Chancellor has announced is not enough and there are “very few” silver linings in the Budget.

Mixed messages says Bruntwood chief

Jessica Bowles is director of strategy at commercial property group Bruntwood which has offices and science parks across the country.

“The Chancellor said he wanted to level with the country about the state of our public finances but we’re owed the same clarity on levelling up too.

“While there were plenty of encouraging announcements today, the Government continues to send mixed messages.

“Plans to slash budgets for Transport for the North alongside the interminable delay to the devolution white paper sit at odds with its core pillar of policy.

“Plans to move more civil servants and even entire government departments out of London are nothing new and the pace to date has been glacial. Today’s announcements finally put some meat on the bones.

“But while welcome, they won’t move the needle on reducing regional inequalities, the roots of which lie much deeper. It will take sustained investment and new approaches to the delivery of health services and education, alongside relocations.”

Sir Keir’s response to the Budget

Sir Keir says that the Budget is “no where near the scale of the task”.

He then moves on the green economy and calls for a major green stimulus.

Sir Keir also wants a “new generation of genuinely affordable council homes”.

What a difference a year makes

After a near hour-long Budget speech, Mr Sunak made no mention of Brexit.

The Covid-19 pandemic was front and centre of the statement.

Sir Keir Starmer replies

He says: “We needed a Budget to fix the foundations of our economy”.

“Instead what we got is a Budget that papered over the cracks.”

Mr Sunak finishes his statement

The Chancellor has now sat down after finishing his Budget statement.

There is now a short break before the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer stands up to make his response to what has been announced.

BBC’s business editor Simon Jack says tax announcement is ‘Quid pro quo’

Tax campaign ‘encouraged’

The campaign to replace council tax and stamp duty with what it calls “a fairer system” is encouraged by today’s Budget

More on that freeport announcement

UK to get eight freeports

Eight Freeport locations have been selected across England.

They are: East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside.

Treasury’s North campus confirmed

As expected, the Chancellor has confirmed plans to open a northern campus for The Treasury in Darlington.

The news was leaked earlier this morning.

Extra funding for the devolved administrations

Mr Sunak has announced an additional £2.4bn for the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland through the Barnett formula.

Help to Grow to offer ‘world class’ management training

More on the Help to Grow scheme just announced by the Chancellor

£1.65bn investment for Covid-19 vaccine rollout

The Chancellor has also announced a £1.65bn investment to continue quick and efficient vaccine rollout.

It will also provide funding for new technology to support future vaccination programmes.

Help to Grow schemes

The Help to Grow Management scheme will give the leaders of 30,000 SMEs access to training on tops from financial management to marketing.

The Help to Grow Digital shceme will give small businesses free online technology advice and 50% discounts on new productivity enhancing software.

UK Infrastructure Bank to be in Leeds

A UK Infrastructure Bank is set to be established in Leeds.

The Chancellor said it will boost investment to accelerate progress to Net Zero and “level up” the UK.

It will have £12bn of funds.

‘Cheers’

Alcohol and fuel duties will remain frozen

The Chancellor has said that alcohol duty will remain frozen for the second year in a row, saving consumers £1.7bn over the coming years.

He adds that fuel duty will also remain frozen for the 11th consecutive year.

‘Upskilling and reskilling people of all ages must be a key focus ‘ – apprenticeship chief

The Chancellor has doubled the amount of money incentivising businesses to hire apprentices.

Ben Hansford, managing director of apprenticeships at Firebrand Training and former senior team member of the Skills Funding Agency, said:

“The UK’s digital skills gap, which was already growing rapidly pre-pandemic, has only widened during the past year and this desperately needs to be addressed if the economy is to get back on its feet.

“Upskilling and reskilling people of all ages must be a key focus in order to create opportunities for jobseekers and stability for businesses in this time of economic uncertainty.

“The levy, which came into play in 2017, is working fantastically, despite having only been running for a few years and now is not the time to change it unless we are streamlining the system as a whole, for example aligning competing initiatives so they compliment each other.

“We need to be wary around the ongoing introduction of newer, competing, unproven schemes such as traineeships and the Kickstarter campaign when apprenticeships have both stood the test of time and shown great adaptability and resilience throughout the pandemic.

“Measures to encourage greater adoption of apprenticeships should be promoted instead, it’s great to see the enhancement of employer incentives which are working wonderfully to encourage more businesses to hire, and see the value in apprentices.”

‘Super Deduction’ explained

And here’s the Chancellor announcing that ‘Super Deduction’:

Mr Sunak announces a ‘super-deduction’

The Chancellor has said the Government is investing £25bn in the “UK’s future growth and prosperity” with the “biggest two-year business tax cut in modern Brisith history'”

Through a130% super-deduction, companies will be able to cut their taxes by up to 25p for every pound they invest.

‘Decisions might not be popular, but they are honest’.

Mr Sunak tells the House of Commons: “These are decisions no Chancellor wants to make.

“I recognise that they might not be popular but they are honest.”

He adds that this is a “business-friendly” Government.

‘Extension of business rates relief is welcome but falls short’ – FSB

‘Even after this change we’ll still have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G7.’

The Chancellor says even after the corporation tax hike to 25% on profits, the country will still have the lowest rate in the G7.

He adds that only 10% will pay the full higher rate.

Corporation tax to rise to 25%

The UK’s coporation tax will rise to 25% from 2023, Mr Sunak confirms.

The OBR expects the economy to have recovered by then, the Chancellor says.

He also outlines a small profits rate at 19% for profits below £50,000.

‘We are not hiding it’

The Chancellor confirms that freeze on personal tax thresholds on Twitter, adding “we are not hiding it”.

Freeze in personal tax thresholds

Mr Sunak has confirmed that there will be a freeze in personal tax tresholds.

There will be an increase in the Personal Allowance to £12,570 in April 2021, which will be maintained at that higher level until April 2026.

“Nobody’s take home pay will be less than it is now as a result of this policy”, he says.

“A tax policy that is progressive and fair”.

Full GDP forecast to come

UK has borrowed the most since WWII

The UK has borrowed £355bn this year, Mr Sunak has confirmed.

That figure is the highest since the Second World War.

He adds that the UK will borrow £234bn next year.

More on the hospitality and tourism VAT cut

Government provides £407bn in Covid support

The Government has provided £407bn in Covid support, Mr Sunak has said.

Mortgage guarantee scheme revealed

The Treasury said the new mortgage guarantee scheme will ‘make home ownership more accessible to those with a smaller deposit’

Stamp Duty news

On stamp duty, the Chancellor confirmed that the £500,000 nil rate band will not end on March 31.

It will now end at the start of July.

The nil rate band will be £250,000 until the end of September and return to the usual level of £125,000 from October 1.

‘Furlough scheme stand-out success’ – CBI

Stamp duty holiday to ‘help more people purchase their homes before the deadline’

The Treasury tweets…

VAT Reduction

Mr Sunak has announced that the VAT reduction to 5% will be extended until September for tourism and hospitality businesses before rising to 12.5%.

He added that the rate would be back to normal next April.

Business Rates tax cut

Mr Sunak has announced a business rates holiday through to the end of June.

The Chancellor said that for the rest of the year, business rates would be discounted by two thirds up to a value of £2m.

He said it will be a £6bn tax cut for businesses.

Restart grants explained

More on those ‘restart grants’ below…

Bar operator welcomes furlough extension

Natasha Waterfield is chief operating officer of bar operator New World Trading Company which runs names such as The Botanist.

She said: “The extension of the furlour scheme is very much appreciated and welcomed by our business.

“It does, however, shows that the path to recovery for hospitality is unlikely to smooth.

“The extension allows us to continue to retain our most valuable asset – our people – if the roadmap is delayed.

“We look forward to re-opening in line with government planned roadmap.”

Extra grants to help businesses reopen after lockdown

The Chancellor has confirmed a “restart grant” from April of up to £6,000 per premises for retail.

Those businesses which are set to open later, such as hospitality, they will get up to £18,000.

The new grants are worth £5bn, bringing total direct cash support to £25bn.

‘We’re taking what works to get people into jobs and making it better.’

New funds to encourage apprenticeship take-up

Mr Sunak adds that there will be £3,000 for each new apprentice hired between the 1st April to 30th September 2021.

That would be an additional £126m for traineeships in England, the Treasury has said.

Self-employment support grant explained

A fourth grant for the self-employed has been announced. Sunak tweeted:

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme extended

Mr Sunak has confirmd that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has been extended.

The fourth grant will cover February to April, worth 80% of average trading profits up to £7,500, the Treasury has said.

A fifth grant will be available from July.

Furlough extended – full details

Full details on the furlough scheme being extended:

Furlough scheme extended

As expected, Mr Sunak has confirmed that the furlough scheme will be expected to the end of September.

He adds that there will be no change to the terms for employees.

Employeers will pay 10% of staff wages in July, 20% in August and September.

Sunak outlines Budget plan

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his Budget to the House of Commons. Picture date: Wednesday March 3, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Budget. Photo credit should read: House of Commons/PA Wire

Economy forecast outlined by the OBR

The OBR has said the economy will return to pre-Covid levels by the middle of 2021.

It had previously expected it to be by the end of the year.

Stark figures outlined by Mr Sunak

Rishi Sunak tells MPs that 700,000 have lost their jobs since last March 2020 and that the economy has shrunk by 10% – the biggest drop in 300 years.

Three-point plan

The Chancellor says today’s Budget involves a three-point plan:

1. Continue doing whatever it takes to protect jobs and households

2. Begin fixing public finances

3. Building our future economy

Chancellor gives his opening remarks

Mr Sunak has said the Covid-19 has “fundamentally altered” life in the UK.

He adds that he “would do whatever it takes” to get the country through the pandemic.

Mr Sunak also mentions that the Government has provided £280bn in support so far.

“We will recover”, he says.

House now being prepared for Budget

The House has been suspended for three minutes ahead of Mr Sunak’s statement.

HS2 question

The PM is asked about HS2 by Labour MP Mike Kane- what prevents the Government from starting work in the North now?

The PM says the project has already begun – in the Midlands and that “we are going to go as fast as we possibly can”.

Moments away from PMQs

It’s the last few questions for the PM and we are moments away from the Budget – what we’ve all been waiting for.

PM accused of ‘ignoring’ South Wales Valleys

PM asked about the South Wales Valleys – and is accused of “ignoring” the region by the Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter.

He says the Govenrment continues to give “massive support” through the Barnett Formula, furlough and others.

Case of Harry Dunn raised in Commons

Tory MP Andrea Leadsom raises the case of Harry Dunn – the motorcycle crash victim.

The PM says the Foreign Secretary has raised the case with the US Secretary of State.

Country needs ‘councillors who charge you less while providing better services’

Labour MP Grahame Morris asks the PM to promise a “proportional property tax” in place of council tax as it places a burden on society’s poorest.

Mr Johnson says that the UK needs ‘councillors who charge you less while providing better services’.

‘I think we already know most of it’

There was a little jab there from speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle about the fact that much of the forthcoming budget plan we will hear at 12.30pm has been trailed in the media.

He said: “I think I already know most of it.”

Encouraging young people to look at careers in health

Wrexham Conservative MP Sarah Atherton asks about encouraging young people to look at careers in health care.

The PM says it was “wonderful” when he visited to see young female scientists working at Wockhardt in Wrexham.

Question about green belt development

A question now from Mike Wood, Tory, MP for Dudley South about protecting the green belt in the area from development of homes.

Mr Johnson pledges to protect the green belt and focus on brownfield sites across the country for new homes.

Cuts to international aid slammed again

A question now from the SNP leader Ian Blackford, who also asks about the crisis in Yemen.

Mr Blackford says 100,000 people have been killed and 16.2 m are at risk of starvation, with 2 million children at death’s door.

The UK’s response is not “compassion, but to impose cuts.”

He asked if the PM will force through “devastating cuts to international aid.”

Mr Johnson says on Monday we are going to provide cash support to 1.5m of the most vulnerable Yemeni households “that is the continuing effort of the British people and the British government to help the people of Yemen.”

He adds the Government has so far pledged £1bn to the country.

‘We’re getting on with a cautious, but irreversible roadmap to freedom’

Mr Starmer asks about “manifesto breaking cuts” to international aid – says it should be put to a vote in the House of Commons.

Mr Johnson said the Government’s record is “one we must be proud of”. Says the Government will get on with delivering its programme of spending. Adds “we’ve got our priorities right”, and attacks Mr Starmer for not asking a question about the coronavirus.

Mr Johnson adds: “We’re getting on with a cautious, but irreversible roadmap to freedom.

“We are going to get on with our agenda and spending more than virtually any other country in the world.”

Questions switch to aid

Mr Starmer asks how he can justify cutting aid to “people who are starving in Yemen”.

The PM says the Government has increased aid spending, adds that Government “continues to step up to the plate” in support of Yemen.

The PM says his Government has given £1bn and this year we are contributing £214m to support the people of Yemen.

In the tough straitened circumstances with Covid “I think the people should be proud of what we are doing”, Mr Johnson adds.

More questions about sale of arms

Mr Starmer said the UK is “increasingly isolated” selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

He asks what it will take for the PM to suspend arms sales to Saudi.

The PM says the UK Government continues to follow the UN’s consolidated guidance, set up historically by the Labour Party.

First question from Keir Starmer

Mr Starmer starts by asking the PM about the sale of arms in the war of Yemen – and whether it should be suspended.

He questions why the UK has not yet stopped those sales – including bombs used in Yemen.

Mr Johnson responds by saying the UK is part of an international coaltion following UN resolutions which are “very clear”.

The Yemen government was removed illegally. The measures are “among the toughest in the world” with regards to arms sales.

He said almost £1bn of aid had been contributed to Yemen in the last five years.

And we’re off…

PMQs has begun.

PM Mr Johnson lays out his list of official engagements for this week.

PMQs imminent

We are moments away from the start of PMQs, with Mr Johnson set to face questions from Labour leader Keir Starmer.

We are just waiting for the conclusion of Northern Ireland Office Questions.

Jobs joy after Darlington Treasury North announcement

Hundreds of jobs look set to be relocated from London to Darlington under the Chancellor’s Treasury North project.

In a video to his department’s civil servants, Rishi Sunak said that after “a lot of thought and energy”, the new economic campus would be in the north east market town.

Mr Sunak said he was “really excited” about the decision, according to the recording of the message which has been shared on social media.

Civic leaders across the North had made overtures in recent weeks for the Chancellor to send Treasury jobs their way.

Darlington was among the favourite places for the move, with Bradford, Leeds and Newcastle also thought to be under consideration for the plan.

Tees Valley’s Tory elected mayor Ben Houchen said last month that Darlington would be a strong option as it would represent a move away from the metropolitan cities to the north and south of the town.

Mr Sunak’s huge Richmond constituency in North Yorkshire lies south of Darlington, which has strong transport links and voted Tory at the 2019 general election.

Karl Pemberton of the Institute of Directors said: “This news is one of the most important announcements for the North East in decades.

The chair of the North East (Tees) branch added: “This will help ‘level up’ our area.

“Where the Government leads others should follow.”

PM on his way to the House of Commons

Latest image emerges of PM Boris Johnson heading to the House of Commons for PMQs:

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 03: Prime minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street ahead of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s delivery of the budget on March 3, 2021 in London, England. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, presents his second budget to the House of Commons. He has pledged to protect jobs and livelihoods as the UK economy has faced crisis during the Coronavirus Pandemic. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Image from inside 11 Downing Street

As we await the Budget, we thought we’d share this image from inside 11 Downing Street of Mr Sunak and his team, that emerged earlier today.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak holds the budget box as he poses with Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Kemi Badenoch, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman, Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen, Minister of State for Efficiency Theodore Agnew, PPS to Treasury Claire Coutinho, PPS to Chancellor James Cartledge, PPS to Chief Secretary Craig Williams and Government Whip and Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury David Rutley inside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget. Picture date: Wednesday March 3, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Budget. Photo credit should read: Toby Melville/PA Wire

PMQs to start shortly

We are around 20 minutes away from PMQs starting, after which Mr Sunak will deliver his Budget.

Chancellor ‘very excited’ about Darlington move

And more on those rumours about a move north for the Treasury.

leaked video of Chancellor Rishi Sunak appears to show that Darlington has the race to host the Treasury’s Northern campus.

A short clip of Mr Sunak announcing the move of staff to Darlington has appeared online, with the Chancellor saying “I am very excited” about the move.

Mr Sunak is expected to confirm the location of the Northern campus in today’s Budget, having said last year that he wanted to move around half of its staff out of Whitehall to change the way the key Government department makes its decisions and alter what many perceive to be a bias towards project in London and the South East.

Borrowing on an ‘extraordinary scale’

More from Mr Sunak’s meeting with the Cabinet now.

The Chancellor told the Cabinet that borrowing is on an “extraordinary scale” but that the Government will “rise to that challenge and we can be optimistic about the recovery”, Downing Street said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Chancellor set out to Cabinet details of the Budget he will deliver later today. He said that the coronavirus pandemic has hit our economy hard. We’ve stepped in to provide support and protect jobs and today we will outline more support to get people through to the other side of the crisis.

“The Chancellor said we must be honest with ourselves and the country about what that has meant. We are borrowing on an extraordinary scale – equivalent only to wartime levels. He said that, as a Conservative Government, we know that we cannot ignore this problem and it wouldn’t be right or responsible to do so.

“The Chancellor said that, while we face challenging times, we will rise to that challenge and we can be optimistic about the recovery. He said the Budget will begin the work of building our future economy.

“The Prime Minister said the measures being announced in the Budget today were only possible because of the prudence of the Conservative Government over a long period of time, which meant the country had gone into the crisis with strong public finances. He said the Budget would begin to set out how the country will make the most of our post-Brexit future and as a science superpower.

“The PM said the Government’s plan for growth would focus on innovation, skills and infrastructure – with the mission being to unleash the potential of our whole country and build back better from the pandemic.”

Treasury ‘going to Darlington’

The Financial Times has reported that the Treasury “is going to Darlington”, with the town set to be home to the ministry’s first office outside London. The paper expects Mr Sunak to announce it during the Budget speech.

More on this as we get it.

Chancellor addresses cabinet before speech

Rishi Sunak reportedly met with the Cabinet in Downing Street a short time ago.

He told the Cabinet that the coronavirus pandemic “has hit our economy hard” and “we must be honest” about what that meant.

But “we can be optimistic about the recovery”, he added, according to a spokesperson for No 10.

‘How we used to live’

We’ve just seen this image on social media from last year’s Budget announcement, on March 11, 2020, where you can see MPs packed out into the House of Commons.

Safe to say, there will be fewer MPs present when Mr Sunak takes to his feet in around an hour’s time.

Five wishes from hospitality

Sacha Lord, Manchester’s nighttime economy adviser, has laid out a list of five things he wants to hear from Mr Sunak today:

Mask on, he’s on his way

Mr Sunak is on his way to the House of Commons for the crucial speech.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 03: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, puts on a face mask outside 11 Downing Street on March 03, 2021 in London, England. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, presents his second budget to the House of Commons. He has pledged to protect jobs and livelihoods as the UK economy has faced crisis during the Coronavirus Pandemic. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Calls for compensation for frontline workers who contracted Covid

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas called for compensation for frontline workers who have suffered with long-term symptoms after contracting coronavirus.

Ms Lucas, the vice-chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, tweeted: “Those who’ve carried burden of caring for us during #Covid & keeping society going have paid heavy price.

“For some, it’s meant suffering from #LongCovid, a life-changing condition. They must be properly compensated.”

Lib Dems call for help – not tax rises – for self-employed

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey called for help, not an increase in taxes, for the self-employed.

He tweeted: “Self-employed people haven’t been forgotten by this Govt – they’ve been actively targeted for tax rises.

“Hit by IR35 (tax avoidance legislation) changes. Hit by the loan charge. Shut out from Covid support.

“The Chancellor must start helping the self-employed and small business in this Budget.”

Chancellor poses outside Downing Street with ‘red box’

Images emerging from Downing Street moments ago:

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 03: Chancellor Of The Exchequer, Rishi Sunak stands outside 11 Downing Street ahead of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s delivery of the budget on March 3, 2021 in London, England. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, presents his second budget to the House of Commons. He has pledged to protect jobs and livelihoods as the UK economy has faced crisis during the Coronavirus Pandemic. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Contactless payment to more than double to £100

We have confirmation now that the contactless payment limit will more than double to £100.

The Chancellor will say in his Budget that the changes will see the legal single contactless payment limit raised from £45.

The Government said the change has been made possible by the UK’s exit from the European Union, which means we are no longer bound by EU rules on the maximum limit for contactless payment, which is currently set at £45.

The contactless payment limit is being increased to £100 (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Mr Sunak said: “As we begin to open the UK economy and people return to the high street, the contactless limit increase will make it easier than ever before for people to pay for their shopping, providing a welcome boost to retail that will protect jobs and drive growth.”

What the Humber region hopes will set sail from Rishi Sunak’s red case

Maritime interests are high on the Budget agenda for the Humber region, with eyes on announcements linked to the freeports competition and offshore wind acceleration.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has received a letter from the region’s MPs urging him to back the bid.

Siemens Gamesa’s planned doubling of size in Hull and Able Marine Energy Park at North Killingholme hold the key to immediate growth in the region as a potential spotlight to shine on the green recovery too.

And with huge decarbonisation plans pan-Humber understood to have been rubber stamped – stretching from Drax to Saltend via the South Bank’s refinery cluster – could Wednesday’s opening of the red case by Chancellor Rishi Sunak reveal it?

Read the full story from the Humber here.

Tourism chiefs demand cash to ‘kickstart’ recovery

Tourism chiefs are calling on the Chancellor to provide a £5million investment to “kickstart” the industry’s post-Covid recovery in the South West.

The newly formed Great South West Tourism Partnership (GSWTP) said the money is essential to deliver short-term actions and projects to accelerate recovery and further develop a longer-term strategy for the region.

The GSWTP also wants the Government to publish a National Tourism Review as soon as possible, including destination marketing structure and long-term funding in conjunction with a Tourism Recovery Plan and Tourism Sector Deal. Full story here.

Elsewhere in the South West, business leaders have urged the Chancellor to provide an “economic revolution” for the region, which you can read all about here.

Business leaders call for Budget support to help region ‘come back stronger’

Business leaders have called on the Government to give the North East region a broad package of targetted support in next month’s Budget after warning that the area will be the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The North East England Chamber of Commerce said the region was facing “unacceptable” gaps with the rest of the country even before the pandemic, adding that “Covid-19 has only worsened this situation, with the Government’s stated goal of ‘levelling up’ regions such as ours never seeming so important and urgent.”

Durham, Newcastle and Middlesbrough city centres

The Chamber said that town and city centres in the region risk being “hollowed out” by a raft of store closures and that rising unemployment will become even worse when the Government’s furlough scheme comes to an end.

It has called for next month’s Budget to include an extension of the Job Retension Scheme and business rates relief, improved funding for training and major improvements to transport and digital infrastructure.

Full story here.

Retail, food and drink, manufacturing, law and marketing lay out their demands

Not since the first post-Credit Crunch budget more than a decade ago will so much be riding on what the Chancellor says.

Here, East Midlands business leaders comment on how Mr Sunak can help them when he takes to despatch box this afternoon.

Freeports, green recovery and levelling up: Business leaders lay out demands

Ahead of the crucial speech, business leaders from across the North West have set out their expectations and hopes for what the Chancellor will announce in his second annual Budget.

Many are calling on the Chancellor to focus on a green recovery and deliver against promises to level-up the UK economy, while others want to hear that Liverpool’s bid to become a freeport has been approved.

Read the full story on that here.

‘Decisions made today to shape our recovery for years to come’

Stuart Haynes, corporate and commercial partner at prominent law firm Aaron & Partners, thinks today’s announcement will “shape our recovery for years to come”.

He said:

There’s certainly a huge amount of pressure on today’s Spring Budget and whilst the easing of restrictions over the coming months means we can all begin to look towards the future, the UK is still facing an incredibly challenging period. The decisions made today will, without doubt, shape our recovery from this pandemic for years to come.

As expected, the Chancellor is focused on protecting as many jobs as possible, having already announced an extension to both the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme and Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which has supported more than 11 million jobs since it was launched in March 2020.

The Chancellor must now also acknowledge the challenges that businesses and especially SMEs are still battling against. As the economy begins to reopen, they will play a vital role in our recovery so they must be supported. Many anticipate that the business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure, which is currently due to end on March 31, could be extended with many of these businesses unable to reopen until April 12 at the earliest.

With so much uncertainty still surrounding this year’s Budget, we can definitely expect there to be some surprises today. But we see this as an opportunity to look forward and hopefully begin our return to some sense of normality.

Fears Covid restrictions will go on beyond June

Despite the PM’s roadmap setting a date of June 21 for the end of all Covid restrictions, there are now fears they may go on longer after the furlough scheme was extended until September.

Government sources told the Mirror the support package needed to have an “imperfect relationship” with the roadmap because so much was unknown.

Sources admitted the Chancellor needs to “provide a cushion” in case something goes wrong.

Will Mr Sunak hike taxes?

The Tory manifesto in 2019 promised not to raise the rates of income tax, National Insurance or VAT.

But Mr Sunak is reported to be considering a freeze in the thresholds at which people start paying income tax or move into higher brackets – meaning more people would be dragged into those categories as wages increase, as our colleagues at The Mirror report.

Freezing the £12,500 threshold at which people start paying tax would bring in an estimated £5 billion and freezing the £50,000 threshold where the 40p rate kicks in would bring in £1 billion by 2024-25.

(Image: PA)

Corporation tax also appears in line for a hike, with Joe Biden’s plan to raise taxes across the Atlantic giving the Government political cover to increase the rate while still maintaining international competitiveness.

Mr Sunak is thought to be considering an increase in the tax on profits from 19p in the pound to between 23p and 25p.

It is also worth keeping an eye on the timing of any tax rises and how they will fit in with the next general election, due in 2024.

Could the Chancellor be thinking of increases now, only to have a pre-election giveaway later?

SMEs call for Chancellor to cut VAT

SMEs are calling on the Chancellor to announce a cut in the VAT rate when he delivers his Budget, a new survey reveals.

Latest data from Lloyds Bank’s Business Barometer shows that when asked which initiative would be most beneficial to helping their firm trade this year, more than a fifth (22%) of SMEs in the South West said a commitment to cut the rate of VAT.

Almost one in five (18%) said they hoped an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, or the introduction of a new scheme to help them retain employees, would be included in the package of measures announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

You can read the full story here.

The scene this morning outside 11 Downing Street

This was the scene this morning outside 11 Downing Street ahead of Mr Sunak’s delivery of the Budget later.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 03: A street cleaner sweeps the gutter outside 11 Downing Street ahead of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s delivery of the budget on March 3, 2021 in London, England. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, presents his second budget to the House of Commons. He has pledged to protect jobs and livelihoods as the UK economy has faced crisis during the Coronavirus Pandemic. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

‘We are looking at catastrophe relief and we really need to be cautious about scaling back’

Ken Rogoff, a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief economist, said he told Chancellor Rishi Sunak the pandemic is a war-like situation where fiscal support should continue.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Rogoff said: “We’ve spoken once and, certainly at the time, and I’d say it now, we are in the middle of a war and you should not be worrying excessively about the budget deficit and about debt.

“You can worry about that at the other side.

“We are looking at catastrophe relief and we really need to be cautious about scaling back – the Government is very much needed now.”

Property firms call for more support and less red tape

More help for entrepreneurs, less red tape and a continuation of holidays for a number areas of taxation.

Those are top of the wish list for the Spring Budget from North East property agents covering sectors including residential housing, investment, commercial property, business parks and retail.

As a major employer, leading companies are also hoping to hear The Chancellor has plans to deliver more support to the property sector to ensure it can drive forward a successful recovery from the pandemic.

You can read their demands in full, here.

Chamber urges Chancellor to keep furlough, fix business rates, and be careful about tax hikes

The boss of one of the region’s biggest business groups has urged the Chancellor to do everything within his power to protect industry as the end of the pandemic draws near.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said reviewing the business rates system sooner rather than later would go some way to helping struggling high street shops.

And he said hospitality, retail, tourism and aviation in particular needed more help if they were ever to get back to pre-Covid levels of trading. He also warned against immediate tax rises that could slow growth.

You can read the full story here.

Chancellor ‘has a chance to right so many wrongs he has caused’

Strong words from Liverpool City Region’s Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram this morning, who tweets:

The timings for Budget day

Here’s how the day will pan out…

  • 12pm – PMQs to take place in the House of Commons – with PM Boris Johnson being quizzed by Labour leader Keir Starmer
  • Around 12.30pm – Mr Sunak takes to his feet to deliver his Budget speech, followed by a debate including questions from shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds. This is expected to go on until around 2pm, with the Finance Bill being put into law
  • 3pm – Manchester mayor Andy Burnham to hold remote press conference giving his reaction to the announcement alongside Sir Richard Leese, Chair of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, and Lou Cordwell, Chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership
  • 5pm – Mr Sunak to host a Downing Street press conference followed by questions from the media and public

Chancellor to promise businesses and taxpayers he will do ‘whatever it takes’ to help them

According to our colleagues at the Mirror, the Chancellor will pledge to use the Government’s full “fiscal firepower” to protect jobs and livelihoods, vowing to do “whatever it takes” to help businesses and people.

He is expected to tell MPs today: “First, we will continue doing whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses through this moment of crisis.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak

“Second, once we are on the way to recovery, we will need to begin fixing the public finances – and I want to be honest today about our plans to do that.

“And, third, in today’s Budget we begin the work of building our future economy.”

Money for a World Cup bid?

Mr Sunak is reportedly set to announce a £2.8m package to help fund a joint UK and Ireland bid to host the 2030 football World Cup.

The move has been backed by the football associations of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

In an interview with The Sun, PM Boris Johnson said: “We are very, very keen to bring football home in 2030.”

ExcludedUK’s open letter to the Chancellor

ExcludedUK, the group of 3m people campaigning on behalf of those unable to access Government support, has written an open letter to Mr Sunak calling on him to include them in today’s Budget.
The letter has collected over 3,500 signatures including 79 MPs, mayors Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, and individuals like Martin Lewis, Gina Miller and John Caudwell.
It stresses the “ever-increasing” hardship and uncertain futures faced by those affected.
Here is the letter in full:

We are writing to you from ExcludedUK with collective support from a wide range of organisations and many individuals with regard to gaps in the government Covid-19 support schemes affecting some 3 million UK taxpayers.

While many have received vital support since the onset of the pandemic, so many others have been left behind. The 3 million figure, now so often referred to, comes from HMRC data and BEIS Business Population Estimates and has been confirmed by figures released by the National Audit Office. It is not just the 1.5 million self-employed that you have previously referred to. Standard Life Foundation’s latest survey estimated that as many as 3.8 million are in fact affected.

The impacts are far-reaching and only set to become more acute, with ever-increasing financial hardship as each month passes and spiralling debt that has already devastated people’s livelihoods and businesses and will continue to do so for years to come without the support so vitally needed. These impacts equally extend to households – children and families, and for small business owners, their employees, freelancers and contractors too if their own businesses are in peril.

This is a substantial section of the workforce and they need support to get through this crisis – people who were furthering their careers by starting a new job, those in between jobs, those who for whatever reason were denied furlough, those who took the plunge to set up a new business, those with entrepreneurial spirit serving their communities and beyond, freelancers, those combining PAYE and self-employment, those whose maternity or parental leave fell at a certain time, people excluded due to pensions, bereavement payments, carer’s allowance, redundancy, shielding and more.

These are people who are the lifeblood of our economy and communities, many who have been taxpayers for years and not previously had to rely on the State, and businesses that are viable. Moreover, people are facing this crisis amid so much uncertainty that still lies ahead, particularly for those in the hardest hit sectors.

Various proposals have been presented to the Treasury that are not complex and that do guard against fraud. We urge you to consider these and include measures in the upcoming Budget that will provide the much-needed financial support for those who find themselves outside of the scope of the eligibility criteria of the existing schemes. Not helping these people is equally at odds with economic recovery.

Providing this support now is the right and fair thing to do.

Budget ‘most important’ day in history of pub and restaurant sector

Strong words from Alex Reilley, co-founder and chairman of listed bar-cafe business Loungers plc, who told us Mr Sunak’s statement will be the ‘most important’ day in the history of the sector.

Stamp duty extension would be ‘fantastic news for buyers’ – What West Midlands property chiefs want from the Budget

Stamp duty holidays, business rates concerns and furlough extensions are among the big issues members of the West Midlands property community are hoping Chancellor Rishi Sunak will address in his Budget speech this week.

Media reports have already suggested that the current stamp duty holiday could be extended from March 31 to July.

Mr Sunak introduced the measure in 2020 to stimulate Britain’s housing market which experienced a dip in activity during England’s first national lockdown.

The idea was to incentivise potential home buyers by increasing the threshold at which stamp duty is charged on homes from £125,000 to £500,000.

Understandably, this features heavily among our experts, whose thoughts you can read here.

Now ‘not the time for tax rises’

The shadow chief secretary to the Treasury has said “building up confidence” in the economy should be prioritised over tax rises.

Labour’s Bridget Phillipson told Sky News: “We don’t think that now is the right time for tax rises, the economy is in such a fragile position that hitting people in their pockets when we need to be building up confidence in our economy is absolutely essential.

“The Chancellor is out on a limb on this, mainstream opinion is very clear that securing the recovery must be an absolute priority of the Government.

“That should mean we don’t see tax rises immediately but action to protect family finance.”

Ms Phillipson added: “We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, we’re under lockdown, businesses are under enormous pressure, so many are just facing this mountain of debt and the Chancellor hasn’t set out how he’s going to help them.

“Whether it’s the IMF (International Monetary Fund) or the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the most important point right now is building up demand within our economy and confidence, not pulling it away at such a fragile moment.”

Budget to set out a three-part plan ‘to protect jobs and livelihoods of British people’

Mr Sunak tweeted last night after speaking to “just some of the millions” impact by Covid.

He said:

Furlough extension ‘relatively generous’

The IFS’s Paul Johnson said Rishi Sunak, in extending the furlough scheme until September, was offering badly affected businesses a “grace” period to help them get up and running once coronavirus restrictions are fully lifted in the summer.

Calling the extension “relatively generous”, Mr Johnson noted that the scheme does “reduce its generosity”, with employers having to contribute to salaries of staff unable to work from July.

“I think the thinking behind that is that there will be some businesses that are still struggling with demand, struggling to get back on their feet so giving them two or three months of grace will help to ensure that jobs are maintained,” he told Today.

“Remember the Chancellor tried to do this last summer – he was intending to phase out furlough over the summer and early autumn and of course that couldn’t happen because of the return of the virus.

“The key thing now is that this really does end in September because we really do move back to normal.”

Higher contactless pay limit?

Last year the contactless payment limit was increased from £30 to £45 to encourage card payments during the pandemic.

The FSA launched a consultation into raising it again to £100 two weeks ago.

The Times now reports that Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson are keen on the issue, so we could see this announced today.

Northern leaders raise pressure on Chancellor to deliver for region

Business and political leaders from across the North have made a concerted effort to lobby Mr Sunak for funds to transform the region’s economic fortunes in today’s Budget.

The North was a major part of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ promise in the campaign for the 2019 General Election and the Conservatives’ victories in many ‘red wall’ Northern seats has added pressure to deliver for the region.

But many in the region say Government action has failed to live up to the rhetoric in the year since then, and rumours that plans for the eastern leg of the HS2 in the North and budget cuts to the Transport for the North organisation have raised tensions between ministers and regional leaders.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil his Spring budget today (Image: PA)

Many northerners will also be waiting eagerly to see how the Chancellor maintains support for businesses in the region which have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with parts of the North in longer lockdown than most other parts of the country.

Read the demands in full from northern leaders here.

More policies needed to stop unemployment rising after furlough ends

More policies need to “step in” to stop levels of unemployment rising after the furlough scheme ends, an economic think tank has said.

Resolution Foundation’s chief executive Torsten Bell told Times Radio:

The big picture is when it comes to unemployment the more difficult part of this crisis is ahead of us rather than behind us.

So it is true as the furlough scheme is phased out, however that phasing out is done, whether that’s via employment contributions rising or just via the scheme being brought to an end, some of those jobs won’t be there for people to go back to.

That should be a big feature of the discussions about the Budget today because the furlough scheme can’t stay forever but other policies do need to step in to make sure we see the smallest rise in unemployment as possible.

There is always going to be a cliff edge when the scheme is fully turned off but I think it’s right that he (Chancellor) has taken a slower approach.

“Firms do need time to get their business up and running and people’s behaviour needs to go back to normal.

‘No case’ for looking to claw back pandemic debt quickly

Sir Robert Chote, former chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), said there was “no robust case” for looking to claw back the UK’s pandemic debt quickly.

Sir Robert, who stood down in 2020 after 10 years in post, told BBC Radio 4’s Today:

The argument that we have borrowed an enormous amount of money – and goodness we have over the last year to 18 months – and that all has to be paid back very quickly, there is no robust case for making that argument.

Most economists would accept that if you have the size of the public debt jump up so you have a temporary increase in borrowing that increases your stock of debt, you don’t want to try to reverse that very quickly or very aggressively.

One of the lessons obviously people have taken out of the experience after the financial crisis is that even if you do have a bigger structural budget deficit, even with that you don’t want to go at it too aggressively in case you weaken the recovery and make the situation worse.

But that is not to say that if there is a permanent increase in the structural budget deficit from the hit to the economy, and in addition you decide you want a larger state coming out of this, then the decisions on tax can’t be put off forever.

He added that the country was in “a period of battlefield medicine for economic policy” and that there needed to be an acceptance of a “broader brush approach” than in less extreme circumstances.

R&D incentives and commitment to electric cars – What manufacturing chiefs want from today

The manufacturing sector has gone through a tumultuous period in recent years, particularly adapting to the changing marketplace as a result of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

It was also hit hard in the early stages of lockdown last year as so many of the roles in the industry cannot be done from home, meaning manufacturers across the West Midlands were some of the first to be “back in the office”.

From left: Addmaster founder Paul Morris, Professor David Bailey from University of Birmingham, British Ceramic Confederation’s technical director Andrew McDermott, BDO’s head of Midlands manufacturing Jon Gilpin and Crowe’s partner and head of manufacturing Johnathan Dudley

But where there was hardship, we also saw opportunity as many adapted their working practices and even their equipment to make new products such as vital PPE for the NHS and other frontline workers.

Here, sector experts outline what they would like to see from the Chancellor in this week’s Budget.

Stamp duty, corporation tax hike, 95% mortgages: Things to look out for in Chancellor’s crucial Budget

Today’s speech is believed by many to be the most crucial Mr Sunak will have made in his role as Chancellor so far.

Much had already been reported as early as last week as to what he will announce today – including an expected extension to the stamp duty holiday. It’s been a real drip feed of announcements from the Government.

Last night, we learnt that furlough is to be extended until September.

But there are still various uncertainties and rumours over what could be in his annual statement.

Here are 21 things to watch out for when Mr Sunak takes to his feet in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak to announce extension of furlough – until September

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will use his Budget to confirm that the job protection furlough scheme is being extended.

In his Wednesday Budget Mr Sunak is expected to say that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has protected more than 11 million jobs since its inception, will remain in place until the end of September.

But the UK Government’s contribution will be tapered from July – with employers asked to pay in alongside the taxpayer for the cost of furloughed employees.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

Employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked until the scheme ends.

The scheme has so far cost the taxpayer approaching £50bn.

Read the full story here.

Happy Budget day!

Good morning – and welcome to Budget 2021 day!

We’re in for a long one – but stay with us here for all of the latest rumours, updates, live coverage and then business reaction later on.

It’s only Rishi Sunak’s second Budget statement of his career as Chancellor – and has been widely described as one of the most important in years.

We’ll get to all of that shortly – but we’ll start with some news that broke last night regarding what’s set to be announced regarding the furlough scheme…