For millions of people employed in the once thriving retail, hospitality, leisure and sports industries ravaged by Covid, this Budget was a critical one.
Here are the shots in the economic arm that could help get you back to work, one way or another.
Contactless card jump aimed at retail
The amount you can spend using a contactless card is going to increase later in 2020 to £100. You may remember that last year it rose from £30 to £45, which was handy during the pandemic when there was a considerable shift away from cash.
Now it’s going to rise again, in the hopes it will encourage spending and be a boost for retail after such a tough year.
There is real concern this might enable theft and fraud so it will be important to hear what safeguards regulators choose to put in place ahead of the increase.
Spending on sports
Although sport was able to return in 2020, prolonged closures and then a lack of crowds has caused a crisis in funding for many smaller clubs in particular. So there’s a promised £300m pot to help this sector recover.
Spending on culture
The chancellor already created a culture recovery fund last July, worth more than £1.5bn to support Britain’s music venues, museums, galleries, theatres and other cultural organisations as the arts struggled to cope with lockdowns – and the limited numbers of punters when they could be open.
Today Sunak announced an extra £400m in total to top up that fund and make payments to various community projects.
New recovery loan scheme
There has been a mix of grants and loans available to businesses to enable to whether the Covid storm and now the chancellor has announced a new kind of loan scheme.
Businesses of any size can apply for loans to help them as they recover and the government will provide a guarantee to lenders of 80 per cent.
There had been a lot of anxiety from businesses about the end of the business rates holiday and so this may be some comfort.
The 100 per cent business rates holiday in England will be extended for three months to the end of June. After that there will be a reduced rate, with a discount of two-thirds for the remaining nine months of the financial year.
Reduced rate VAT for hospitality to stay
VAT for hospitality firms will be maintained at 5 per cent until September and then will move to an interim rate of 12.5 per cent for another six months, before moving back to the original 20 per cent rate.
‘Help to grow’ scheme for businesses
Government funding will pay for small companies will be able to access online courses from dozens of business schools across the UK, which will offer management development.
It will also fund discounts of up to half on software that could boost productivity, on the grounds that so many companies had to move online during the pandemic.
Both these programmes will be rolled out in the autumn but businesses can register their interest today via the gov.uk website.
‘Restart grants’ for businesses
As previously promised, the chancellor gave more details on a £5bn grant scheme worth up to £18,000 per company.
The amount available will be determined by the length of time different businesses have had to remain closed.
It’s going to be made available via local authorities and will benefit some 700,000 businesses in England as they work towards reopening as the lockdown gradually eases. These will include hairdressers, gyms, restaurants and other companies.
A jump in apprenticeships payments
A new scheme for England will see apprentices being able to enter a new kind of flexible working scheme that lets them work for several employers within their chosen sector.
The apprenticeship incentive payments for businesses are doubling to £3,000. There will also be a £126m pot to pay for more traineeships as well, where companies give young people work placements.
Freeports are go
This very divisive policy got a boost today as the chancellor announced the locations of the first eight freeports in England. These will be special areas given extra economic support and financial freedoms not found elsewhere, including tax breaks and special customs zones.
However, these are not universally accepted as a good thing. In some other countries these areas have been associated with a rise in drug trafficking, money laundering, counterfeit trading and other criminal activity.
In fact, the European parliament has called for them to be abolished with the EU. However, the government hopes that these areas will boost investment and business, particularly in some of the northern parts of England.
And finally… the ‘buy your boozer’ fund
“The government will create a new £150m community ownership fund to help ensure that communities across the UK can continue to benefit from the local facilities and amenities that are most important to them,” reads the Budget but this has already been dubbed the buy your boozer fund.
All hospitality has really suffered over the last 11 months and that has put a number of venues at risk of closure. So the chancellor has set aside £150m to help community groups and collectives buy their local pub or even a local sports club and run it as a community endeavour.
It’s not a simple handout, though. Community groups have to match the government funding they bid for, usually capped at £250,000.
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