Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his annual budget today, Wednesday 03 March. He has been in post for just over a year and has made fifteen statements in the House of Commons since the pandemic began. His budget sets out his forecasts for growth, including an extension of the furlough scheme until September and some help for businesses and limited aid for the self-employed.
No additional funding was announced for the NHS apart from for vaccination roll out and victims of domestic violence.
According to the OBR which is the Office of Budget Responsibility the economy shrank by 10% last year, the sharpest fall since 1709. OBR forecast growth of 7.3% next year. National debt which is the sum total of every budget deficit is high – 88.8% of GDP and is forecast to rise to 97% in 2023-24. It should then stabilise.
Brighton’s Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “After campaigning hard for business rates relief to be extended, I am glad the Chancellor listened and provided a partial lifeline for hundreds of businesses in Brighton and Hove who have held on during this pandemic, but faced a cliff-edge at the end of March.
“I welcome too, the VAT reduction which I have also called for, and the announcement of restart grants for businesses. But we need to see the detail on this. If they are restricted based on rateable value, important parts of our economy like business to business suppliers and the live events sector will continue to lose out.”
Talking about the self-employed she said: “The extension of support for the self-employed is critical to our local economy and it’s good to see some of those excluded from previous schemes are now able to access income support. But the continued exclusion of directors of limited companies, PAYE freelancers, those who combine self-employment with PAYE and others is unforgivable.
“And help for local businesses, and an extension to the furlough scheme, cannot compensate for the gaping hole at the heart of this budget – its failure to acknowledge, let alone address, the climate and ecological crises.”
The Chancellor has announced a new national infrastructure bank which will open in Leeds with £12 billion capital invested by the government. In addition, government will invest £15bn in green bonds, including for retail investors, to help finance the transition to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Net zero emissions will become the responsibility of the Bank of England. According to Peter Walker from the Guardian, these announcements are “obligatory now” due to Mrs Lucas’ Green New Deal and are “fairly modest.”
When speaking about climate change and ecological issues, Mrs Lucas said: “These two issues weren’t even mentioned – a massive oversight which makes me wonder what planet Rishi Sunak is living on. We desperately needed an ambitious budget for a greener, fairer future that would create new local jobs.
“Instead we got a few announcements dressed up as “green growth” when, in reality, one of the few ‘green’ initiatives this Government has launched – the Green Homes Grants scheme – is being starved of funds leaving householders and businesses in the lurch.
“With nothing to replace it, there is now no substantial government-supported programme to cut emissions from buildings – which is essential if we are to meet climate targets.
“We need transformational change to address the climate and nature crises, and the deep inequalities in our society. We need a redesigned economy that puts people and nature first, not one that is stuck in the past.
“A better, fairer, greener future is within our reach and I and many others will keep campaigning for it.”