Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak will vow to use 'fiscal firepower' to protect jobs

2 March 2021, 18:02

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will promise to use "fiscal firepower" to protect jobs and livelihoods
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will promise to use "fiscal firepower" to protect jobs and livelihoods. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will promise to use "fiscal firepower" to protect jobs and livelihoods when he unveils his Budget on Wednesday.

Mr Sunak is expected to set out a three-point economic plan focused on supporting people through the Covid-19 pandemic, fixing the public finances and building the future economy.

He will vow to do "whatever it takes" to help businesses and people through this "moment of crisis", amid calls to extend the furlough scheme while lockdown measures remain in place.

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The Chancellor will tell MPs: "We're using the full measure of our fiscal firepower to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people."

Mr Sunak is expected to add: "First, we will continue doing whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses through this moment of crisis.

"Second, once we are on the way to recovery, we will need to begin fixing the public finances - and I want to be honest today about our plans to do that.

"And, third, in today's Budget we begin the work of building our future economy."

It was announced on Monday that the Chancellor is to launch a £520 million initiative to support small UK businesses with training and software in this week's Budget.

Rishi Sunak said the Help to Grow scheme could help 130,000 SMEs (small and medium enterprises) become more productive by providing access to some of the UK's top business schools.

The Treasury said that firms will receive expert technology advice and discounted software, as it aims to spark innovation as the UK plots its recovery out of the pandemic.

Mr Sunak said: "Our brilliant SMEs are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs and generating prosperity - so it's vital they can access the tools they need to succeed

"Help to Grow will ensure they are embracing the latest technology and management training, fuelling our Plan for Jobs by boosting productivity in all corners of the UK."

Under the "plan for jobs", Mr Sunak will also commit £126 million to create 40,000 additional traineeships in England and offer cash incentives for employers who take on an apprentice to £3,000 in the Budget.

The Chancellor will also provide more than £400 million of additional support for the badly hit culture sector.

Rishi Sunak is preparing to hand out £408 million to help museums, theatres and galleries in England to reopen once coronavirus restrictions start to ease in the coming months.

Many theatres have not been able to open their doors since March 2020.

In a slew of pre-Budget teasers, Treasury officials also said Mr Sunak will use his fiscal package on Wednesday to give a "significant chunk" of a £300 million sports recovery package to cricket as fans prepare to return to stadiums this summer.

Over the weekend, it was announced that hundreds of thousands of business hit hardest by Covid-19 will able to get 'restart' grants as part of a £5 billion scheme to help them reopen as lockdown is eased.

Rishi Sunak will announce booster payments worth up to £6,000 per premises to help pubs, restaurants, shops and other non-essential retailers welcome back customers and trade safely as measures are gradually lifted.

Hospitality, hotels, gyms, as well as personal care and leisure firms, will be eligible for up to £18,000 per premises as they reopen in the Spring

The Treasury estimates 230,000 firms will be eligible for the higher band, which will be awarded based on their rateable value, and 450,000 shops will also be able to apply.

The £5 billion is targeted at England, but the devolved nations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive an extra £794 million in funding through the Barnett formula.

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On Tuesday, Mr Sunak held a virtual call with around 50 people who have been helped by the Government's support schemes during the pandemic - such as furlough.

The Treasury said the Budget will build on the Government's plan for jobs and the £280 billion package of support during the coronavirus crisis.