Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a raft of measures to support businesses and kickstart the economy in his highly-anticipated Spring Budget.
The extension of the furlough scheme, more grants and support for the self-employed were just some of the initiatives Mr Sunak unveiled in his address to the House of Commons this afternoon.
He told MPs that the Job Retention Scheme will be extended until the end of September and the business rates holiday for sectors including retail and hospitality will be extended until the end of June.
He also announced a £5bn ‘Restart Grant’ scheme to help hard-hit sectors get back on their feet, and a £520m ‘Help to Grow Fund’ to support smaller businesses.
At the same time, 600,000 more self-employed workers will be eligible for direct cash grants under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
But, in an attempt to repair the nation’s finances following the coronavirus crisis, Mr Sunak announced a major increase in corporation tax paid by the largest and most profitable businesses.
Other measures included:
- Extending the current VAT cuts for hospitality firms for another six months;
- A ‘super deduction’ tax break to allow companies to offset the cost of new equipment – with an additional 30 per cent off;
- Scrapping plans to increase duties on fuel and alcohol;
- £126m new funding for 40,000 more traineeships.
Here business leaders in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire give their thoughts on the Budget.
Alun Rogers, chair of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP believes this budget will help to get SMEs back on their feet.
He said: “This Budget puts people and SMEs at the heart of the recovery and we welcome the measures that have been set out to support jobs, growth and economic prosperity.
“The ‘Help to Grow’ programme is particularly welcome, this will enable businesses coming out of this economic turbulence to invest in the training and skills to help them grow over the long-term. The new super-deduction is genuinely revolutionary and will help drive investment in SMEs and encourage growth.
“When it comes to levelling-up, we will be working hard with partners to put forward an ambitious bid to ensure that Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire play a leading role in rebalancing the national economy.”
Sara Williams, chief executive at Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, said: “There’s much to welcome in this Budget for businesses in Staffordshire. Extensions to furlough, business rates relief and VAT reductions give our region’s firms the chance not only to restart, but also to rebuild.
“For a lot of businesses the path to recovery will not be easy, and therefore the Chancellor must be prepared to take additional action to ensure that Staffordshire’s economy can fire on all cylinders once again.”
Staffordshire County Council leader Alan White said: “The Chancellor’s commitment to continued support for businesses and employees through the pandemic recovery is vital and will provide much-needed reassurance to communities here in Staffordshire and nationally.
“He has set out critical initiatives in line with the roadmap out of the pandemic restrictions which we welcome – from ensuring businesses can retain employees to supporting those that have had to close to reopen.
“This will be a hugely challenging year for everyone, but with the vaccine success, ongoing business support and a roadmap to recovery set out, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
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Ian Harford, business growth specialist at ActionCOACH Stoke-on-Trent, said: “Offering strong support to our local businesses will not just provide them the opportunity to survive, but it will allow them to thrive.
“The April 12 opening of some local businesses is the start of the next chapter and they can do it with an adopted positive mindset, despite any challenges they might be facing.
“By offering a level of support into the summer such as the extended furlough scheme, it will allow businesses to work critically, effectively and sensibly, ensuring that local businesses exit the pandemic in a solid position to move forwards stronger into the future.”
Mr Sunak announced that the rate of corporation tax for firms with profits above £250,000 will rise to 25 per cent in 2023 – up from 19 per cent – while smaller businesses, with profits below £50,000, will still pay 19 per cent.
Paul Morris MBE, founder of Stafford-based additives manufacturer Addmaster, said: “A lot of businesses must already be seriously considering whether the UK is the best place to be following Brexit and, an immediate increase in corporation tax, would have really hit both business recovery and, importantly, strangle overseas investment.
“For that reason I’m pleased to see it delayed until hopefully the economy is in a much stronger position.”
Ceramics industry trade association the British Ceramic Confederation has welcomed support for the hospitality sector, but expressed disappointment that financial support had not been extended to the supply chains of badly hit sectors.
Technical director Dr Andrew McDermott said: “Many ceramics manufacturers have been adversely affected by the impact of Covid-19 on hospitality businesses, so we welcome the continued financial support to help that sector back onto its feet, including the extension of the job retention scheme.
“However, we would have liked to see the extension of financial support into the supply chains of badly hit sectors, for example hospitality, aviation, construction and retail, to avoid compounding the economic damage and assist recovery.
“We were also pleased to hear that companies will be able to cut their tax bill by claiming 130 per cent of their spend on new machinery.”
What are your thoughts on Rishi Sunak’s Budget? Let us know in the comment section below.
As part of his plans to boost the uptake of traineeships and apprenticeships in England, the Chancellor also announced a new ‘flexi-job’ apprenticeship scheme which will allow apprentices to work for a number of different employers in a single sector.
Joe Turner, of Staffordshire-based Acacia Training, said: “At a time when we must focus efforts on allowing the economy to recover, providing both the means for businesses to recruit, and for young people and adults alike to gain valuable training and a route in to employment, is a positive step in the right direction.”
He added: “The announcement around new ‘flexi-job’ apprenticeships is particularly exciting. The option for apprentices to work with a number of different employers across their chosen sector will open up training routes that have been previously harder to navigate due to the flexible working patterns that are commonplace in many sectors.”