"Talent is evenly spread in our country, but opportunity is not, and we have to put that right; we need to build the infrastructure that will lay the foundations for a new century of prosperity. We need to grab the opportunity to upgrade, to improve, to enhance, to level up, and that starts today, with the next part of our plan, as we get Britain building."
These were Chancellor Rishi Sunak's words as he delivered his first budget today. With coronavirus playing a key part, the Chancellor was keen to set out plans for the countries long term economic future, not just the short term.
Among the main measures announced were:
- £600bn + is set to be spent on roads, rail, broadband and housing by the middle of 2025.
- More money for the Scottish, Welsh and Northern governments.
- £5.5bn going into broadband and rural phone network to improve 4G coverage.
- Renewed commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail, investing in the strategic roads network and a £2.5bn pothole fund.
- Northern Powerhouse, the Midlands Engine and the Western Gateway to have dedicated local champions based at key overseas posts.
With predictions saying that up to a 5th of the workforce could be off work at any one time due to coronavirus, the Chancellor assured that support would be given to businesses while the virus continues to spread. These measures are to help smaller companies going under and to make sure the country doesn't plunge into a recession. Amongst other measures the Government pledge to refund SSP for up to 14 days for small to medium businesses and the Chancellor also outlined a new business interruption loan scheme that will allow SMEs to borrow up to £1.2m to help with short term cash flow issues.
Other Key Topics
Despite concerted opposition from within the recruitment and contractor community, Sunak confirmed that the IR35 off-payroll reforms would be introduced as planned in April.
The National Insurance threshold will increase from £8,632 to £9.5k.
There will be £230m of new funding to extend business start-ups and scale-ups. An additional £200m for life sciences was promised.
R&D and investing in ideas
There will be an increase in R&D investment to £22bn a year, including in nuclear fusion and electric vehicles. £400m will be going into research in universities around the UK; £500m will be put into new rapid charging hubs for electric vehicles.
The affordable homes programme will be extended.
The Chancellor reiterated the government's commitment to delivering 50,000 more nurses and 40 new hospitals.
What are your thoughts on Chancellor Sunaks first budget?