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‘Go Dutch’ and save the economy urges chancellor – but is it enough?

PUBLISHED: 16:44 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:02 08 July 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak during a visit to a pizza restaurant - if they'd waited until August they would have got £20 off their bill

Prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak during a visit to a pizza restaurant - if they'd waited until August they would have got £20 off their bill

PA Wire/PA Images

Bold, but was it bold enough? What the chancellor’s mini Budget means for you.

Lockdown has been tough for singletons.

The usual drinks and suppers out – now so much easier due to online dating apps – came to a shuddering halt in March when the prime minister ordered all the fun stuff had to end.

And, alas, a cheeky kiss and cuddle was definitely off the agenda.

However things are starting to get back to normal. The pubs and restaurants have reopened – masks are de rigueur of course – and finally people are taking baby steps towards something resembling a new normal.

And now one of the most awkward moments of dating has been solved – by the chancellor of all people.

MORE: Government to pick up half the bill for meals eaten out in August

The question of who pays the bill has been answered – the government is willing to ‘go dutch’.

No one saw this coming. This wasn’t leaked or trailed and nothing quite like it has ever been attempted before in the United Kingdom.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

A tenner off a meal per person including children? Not a bad deal and will certainly be welcomed by restaurants across Norfolk and Waveney.

But is it bold enough?

There was a lot of Westminster chatter in the days running up to Rishi Sunak’s statement that government was willing to sink £32billion into a voucher scheme whereby every adult would receive £500 (children £250) to spend on the high street.

Now that would have been bold. That would have sent a very serious message to business that the government would do anything to save jobs and protect the battered economy.

Serious conversations certainly took place in Downing Street over the proposal. But in the end the eye-watering cost kiboshed it.

Instead the hope is we will all “eat out to help out”.

MORE: House buyers save thousands on stamp duty as chancellor announces tax holiday

There is no doubt the government’s intentions are good. Boris Johnson and Mr Sunak’s fiscal interventions have been widely welcomed since the pandemic struck. The furlough scheme and grants have saved businesses and jobs.

But I fear the very poorest in our region have missed out. If you have no spare income, if you have lost your job are you really planning on eating out at all? A tenner off is probably not going to help.

Is this policy a tad middle class? “Eat out to help out”? The voucher scheme would certainly have avoided that accusation.

But one of the most vulnerable groups in the midst of the virus fall out have been thrown a potential life line.

And one employers can surely get behind as well.

In an echo of the old YTS scheme, each new apprentice hired by a firm will arrive with a £2,000 handout from the government. That is on top of the £1,000 already given to firms who take on 16-18 year olds.

That really could be the difference between a firm taking a risk on a young person or not. And in the long run it could be the difference between a career or the dole queue.

The chancellor said £17m of funding will be made to triple the number of sector-based work academy placements and nearly £900m to double the number of work coaches to 27,000.

He added that more than 250,000 more young people will benefit from an extra £32m investment in the National Careers Service.

And that is not all.

In a clear sign that the chancellor is determined coronavirus will not result in mass unemployment he is also offering firms £1,000 if they retain staff to ensure furlough was not a waiting room for redundancy.

Again this could be the difference that saves a job.

It is hard to throw stones at a government which is clearly trying innovative ways to stimulate the economy. Even the opposition has found it tough. In fact on occasion they have flat out agreed with the chancellor – these are unprecedented times.

But after the bravery of the furlough scheme Mr Sunak is gently applying the brakes. And although understandable some will be rightly worried the brakes might continued to be applied until the UK is at a standstill.

This was always only going to be a ‘mini-Budget’ and now the pressure really is on Number 11 to deliver something extra special when the next fiscal statement is made in the Autumn.

It is too early to tell whether ‘Rishinomics’ can be deemed a success. In fact it might be years before we can fully analyse if the government have got this right.

The only thing to do is hope and make a reservation for the first Monday in August.


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