Wednesday, 18 March 2020
Newspaper column 18 March 2020 - Budget news
Although the Coronavirus outbreak has been dominating the news – and rightly so, Last week saw the Budget Statement made in Parliament by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. I was pleased to see the Budget contained a great deal of support for the economy in order to help our country through this crisis. Whilst this is primarily a health crisis, we should not under-estimate the impact this will have on our economy. We all need to pull together to help our country and communities to get through the coming months and it was good to see the government taking a lead and giving a clear message.
I was pleased to see the Chancellor announce that whatever extra resources our NHS needs to cope with COVID-19 it will get, whether that be millions or billions. There was an initial announcement of an extra £5billion with a commitment of more to follow should it be needed.
Additional measures to support people during this crisis include statutory sick pay being made available for all those who are advised to self-isolate – even if they don’t have symptoms, from day one, rather than having to wait the usual 4 days. The NHS 111 service will also be able to provide sick notes rather than needing to go to GP. For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, statutory sick pay for up to 14 days off will be reimbursed by the government.
Temporarily removing the minimum income floor for universal credit, and requirement to visit a jobcentre also dropped – customers can now complete whole process over the phone. This will provide some help to the self-employed. A £500 million hardship fund has also been made available to local Councils to support those who face hardship as a result of this crisis.
I am sure many small and medium businesses in Cornwall in the retail, leisure and hospitality industries will join me in being pleased by the announcement that business rates will be abolished for businesses in these sectors with a rateable value below £51,000.entirely for this year – over half of UK businesses and a much greater percentage of our business community in Cornwall will benefit from this.
This applies not only to shops, cinemas, restaurants and music venues as promised in the Conservative Manifesto, but also museums, art galleries, theatres, caravan parks, gyms, small hotels, B&Bs, sports clubs, night clubs, clubhouses and guest houses.
I also welcome the Chancellor’s promise of a £3,000 cash grant per business for any firm that is currently eligible for the small business rates relief – a £2 billion cash injection for 700,000 small businesses. Again this will provide much needed support to so many of the small businesses that make up the lifeblood of our Cornish economy to help them great through the coming months.
The Government has also frozen fuel duty for a 10th year in a row to help with the cost of living, saving the average car driver a cumulative £1,200 compared to if things had continued as they were planned to in 2010.
Another freeze is on the duty rates on beer, spirits, wine and cider. This will be only the second time in almost 20 years a government has frozen all these duties, and as a big supporter of the brewing and pub industry this is something I have campaigned for and am pleased to see happen.
We also saw the first opportunity to make a decision that we have been prevented from taking previous do to being tied to the EU rules. The controversial tampon tax has also been removed. We will reduce the cost of essential sanitary products for women in the UK, abolishing the tampon tax from 1 January 2021, something I said would happen when this was first raised with me in 2015.
Clearly we face a great deal of uncertainty as we wait to see how much of an impact the Coronavirus will have. I was pleased that the government have taken a number of steps to respond to the likely economic consequences of this crisis. The government is playing its part, but this is a time when we all need to pull together to face the challenges ahead. One of the things we can all do is seek to support our local businesses as much as we can. They are going to need all of our support to get through the coming months and protect as many jobs as we can.
My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or contact me on either 01726 829379 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events