Budget Day is here and Chancellor Rishi Sunak explained a raft of spending measures in the Commons this afternoon. This is the first budget since Boris Johnson won a Parliamentary majority, with Rishi Sunak being named Chancellor last month after the shock resignation of Sajid Javid.
Hours before the Budget, the Bank of England set the scene with an emergency interest rate cut from 0.75 percent to 0.25 percent.
A series of other measures designed to help businesses and households through a coronavirus economic shock “that could prove sharp and large, but should be temporary” have also been announced today.
Mr Sunak insisted the NHS would get whatever it needs during this crisis and is seeking to ensure all those affected are still paid.
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The Chancellor said the Government was “doing everything we can to keep this country and our people healthy and financially secure” as he delivered his Budget against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis.
He said: “I want to get straight to the issue most on everyone’s mind- coronavirus COVID19. I know how worried people are.
“Worried about their health, the health of their loved ones, their jobs, their income, their businesses, their financial security.
“And I know they get even more worried when they turn on their TVs and hear talk of markets collapsing and recessions coming.
“People want to know what’s happening, and what can be done to fix it.”
Sunak said he has a three-point plan and insisted the NHS will get whatever help it needs, “whatever it costs”.
He said: “Whatever extra resources our NHS needs to cope with COVID-19 – it will get.
“So, whether its research for a vaccine, recruiting thousands of returning staff, or supporting our brilliant Doctors and Nurses* *whether its millions of pounds or billions of pounds* *whatever it needs, whatever it costs, we stand behind our NHS.”
He added statutory sick pay will be available to anyone advised to self-isolate, from day one rather than day four.
The Chancellor also said they will be able to get a sick note through 111.
For those who do not qualify for sick pay, he said he will make it easier to get benefits.
Mr Sunak also said £2bn will be allocated to cover firms that lose out because staff are off sick.
The minimum income level will be removed from Universal Credit, due to coronavirus, temporarily.
Minimum Wage will rise this year, a move which had already been announced but Mr Sunak praised in his speech today.
He revealed the government will increase the national living wage to two-thirds of median earnings by 2024, meaning ti will increase to £10.50 an hour, he says.
Meanwhile the NI threshold will rise to £9,500.
Business Rates to be abolished for the coming year for small businesses.
Small business affected by coronavirus can get loans of up to £1.2m.
Tampon Tax has been abolished.
He also announced an end to the spirit tax, saying pubs were central to the community.
Mr Sunak said for this year the business rate discount will be £5,000 for pubs to mitigate against coronavirus.
Planned rise for beer duty will also be cancelled.
Fuel Duty will also remain frozen.
Prior to the Budget speech this afternoon, the Chancellor told the Cabinet that despite coronavirus being “front and centre in our minds” the Budget also “delivers on the promises made to the British people”.
He insisted the budget was “investing in public services and cutting taxes for millions of hardworking people – and that there could be no delay in laying the foundations for a decade of growth where opportunity was spread equally across the UK”.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The PM said that this Budget starts to tackle head-on the challenges facing our economy and country – addressing productivity and regional imbalances – and showing that the government is responding to the public’s desire for change.
“It will set the path for further action through the year.”
The Budget comes after health mininster Nadine Dorries confirmed she had tested positive for coronavirus.
She tweeted: “Thanks for so many good wishes. It’s been pretty rubbish but I hope I’m over the worst of it now.
“More worried about my 84yo mum who is staying with me and began with the cough today.
“She is being tested tomorrow. Keep safe and keep washing those hands, everyone.”
Downing Street confirmed Parliament would nit be shut down following her announcement, adding Boris Johnson would not be tested for the virus despite meeting Ms Dorries just days earlier.
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