Budget 2020: Chancellor sets out coronavirus measures but what does it mean for Norfolk?
PUBLISHED: 13:07 11 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:47 11 March 2020
PA Wire/PA Images
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has moved to “act in the national interest” over the coronavirus outbreak using his first Budget speech to declare: “We will get through this together.”
And in an 'exceptional step' the chancellor has abolished business rates for firms with a rateable value below £51,000.
But although the chancellor has sparked a huge spending spree there was no specific details of improvements or infrastructure projects in Norfolk and Waveney. Many people hoping for an update on plans to dual the A47 will have ben left disappointed.
And a pot of money earmarked to improve transport in Norwich could be reduced as the city will now have to share it with two other areas.
Setting out a stark prediction of what could happen as the coronavirus takes hold in the coming weeks and months Mr Sunak said there is likely to be a 'temporary disruption' to the economy while up to a fifth of the working age population could be off work at any one time.
But speaking in the House of Commons he added: 'We are doing everything we can to keep this country and our people healthy and financially secure.'
His coronavirus plan includes:
- Hospitals - 'Whatever extra resources our NHS needs- it will get'.
- Sick pay - statutory money will be available for 'all those who are advised to self-isolate' even if they have not displayed symptoms.
- Any firm with under 250 employees will not be expected to meet the cost of statutory sick pay for the first 14 days.
- £1 billion business rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality firms with a rateable value of under £51,000
- £3,000 cash grant to businesses eligible for small business rates relief
He added: '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.
'We will get through this - together. The British people may be worried, but they are not daunted. We will protect our country and our people. We will rise to this challenge.'
The Budget comes as the country struggles with the virus spreading every day - although Norfolk is yet to have a confirmed case there are now 32 cases confirmed in East Anglia.
Hours before the Budget, the Bank of England set the scene with an emergency interest rate cut from 0.75% to 0.25% and 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'.
And it was a good Budget for pubs with the chancellor freezing duty on beer, cider, wines and spirits.
Mr Sunak said: 'Taken together, the extraordinary measures I have set out today represent £7 billion to support the self-employed, businesses and vulnerable people.
'To support the NHS and other public services, I am also setting aside a £5 billion emergency response fund - and will go further if necessary.'
Other plans represented another £18 billion of 'additional fiscal loosening' and 'that means I am announcing today, in total, a £30 billion fiscal stimulus to support British people, British jobs and British businesses through this moment'.
But the statement was ravaged by Labour who dubbed it a 'smoke and mirrors' Budget.
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said: 'This budget won't re-open the 38 children's centres shut by the Tories, bring back the 150 sacked Police Community Support Officers or go anywhere near replacing the £40m slashed from the Norfolk Constabulary budget since 2010.
'With council spending per person still 20% lower in 2020-21 than it was in 2009-10, our local authorities continue to run on empty. And that matters hugely because they are on the frontline of response to the huge challenges of the climate crisis, an ageing society and public health emergencies like coronavirus. Those cuts have happened at the same time as council duties related to public health, Social care and Homelessness have increased and demand for those services has also soared.
'This is a smoke and mirrors, damp squib of a budget which falls far short of what is needed to deal with the crisis in public services in our city, reduce regional inequalities or respond in any meaningful way to the climate emergency.
On climate change he added: 'The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia says of all the counties in mainland UK, Norfolk is the most 'at-risk' from the effects of the climate emergency but the scale and objectives of the capital spending announced doesn't even scratch the surface of what is needed to push back against climate breakdown.
'Coastal erosion, flooding and lack of rainfall have profound effects here and Norfolk's economy and jobs - tourism, agriculture, food, fishing, even the insurance industry - are extremely exposed to the environmental emergency.'
But his rival Norwich MP Chloe Smith said: 'This is a sensible budget that addresses the worrying challenge of coronavirus while keeping economic growth firmly in sight. For us in Norwich, today recaps important things we already have like investment through the Transforming Cities and Stronger Towns funds.
'We're also continuing to work for long term projects, like an A&E upgrade, through the spending review coming later that covers the rest of this Parliament.'
East Anglian accountant Andrew Diver - of Beatons - added: 'The scrapping for business rates for retail, leisure and hospitality sector firms, with a rateable value of £51,000, will be a welcome boost to many of our clients. The move will save them each up to £25,000.
'The big question remains, how will this spending be financed? With an Autumn Statement to come, perhaps the implications of the spending will be addressed.'
And on the changes to entrepreneur's relief he added: 'Some business owners are reliant on that as their pension. The chancellor announced a reduced lifetime limit from £10million to £1m.
'The rate currently affords entrepreneurs a 10% cut in the Capital Gains Tax they pay on the sale of their business - a cost of £2.6bn a year to the government.
'Around 80% of small business owners are unlikely to be impacted by this change but it could stimulate demand for more advice for business owners.'