The UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday revealed the Government’s Budget for 2021, including a host of extensions to existing coronavirus business support schemes as well as some new ones.
The Coronavirus Job Support Scheme, or furlough scheme, has been extended to September 2021 across the UK. From July, employers will then be expected to pay 10% towards the hours their staff do not work, increasing to 20% in August and September, as the economy reopens.
The Government has pledged £5 billion for new ‘Restart Grants’, which it described as a one-off cash grant of up to £18,000 for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses in England.
Newly-introduced is a UK-wide Recovery Loan Scheme offering loans between £25,001 and £10 million, and asset and invoice finance between £1,000 and £10 million, to aid businesses recovery.
The Government also said that around 750,000 eligible English businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure will benefit from further business rates relief. Sunak has extended the business rates relief for three months until the end of June. The rest of the year, rates will be reduced by two thirds, up to the value of £2m for closed businesses and a lower cap for those who have been able to stay open.
There is also additional funding for apprenticeships and traineeships.
The Budget also confirmed an additional £2.4 billion for the devolved administrations for 2021-22 through the Barnett formula, equating to £1.2 billion for the Scottish Government, £740 million for the Welsh Government and £410 million for the Northern Ireland Executive.
Responding to the Chancellor’s Budget, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The Chancellor has listened to many of our concerns and we welcome the extension of key business funding schemes.
“This announcement provides some targeted support to struggling businesses across the country.
“Action to support the retail industry will be vital to reviving the economy – including business rates relief, restart grants and loans, and an extension to the furlough scheme.
“However, for many retailers the devil will be in the detail, with caps on funding limiting access to this support.
“Retail accounts for over three million jobs, spread across every region of the UK; supporting the success of our industry will be essential to unlocking consumer spending and driving forward the UK’s economic recovery.
“The Chancellor must keep the situation under review, as we wait to see how the economy responds to reopening.”