The Budget March 2020
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, stepped up to the Despatch Box with the aim of settling the nerves of the country. The new government wants to ‘level up’, ‘get brexit done’ and deal with global financial turmoil as the implications of pandemic sink in.
The Budget included a £12 billion plan to provide support for public services, individuals and businesses, including £5 billion to support NHS and other public services as they respond to the situation.
For individuals: Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is being extended to cover people advised to self-isolate or who care for them. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey has said that If claimants cannot attend their JobCentre appointment in person because of self-isolation, work coaches can exercise discretion and they will not be sanctioned, as long they let their work coach or JobCentre Plus know before the appointment. She reiterated that “No-one will be penalised for doing the right thing.” There will also be a £500m hardship fund although there are no details at present.
For business: Support takes the form of expanded business rates reliefs along with a loan scheme to support up to £1 billion lending to SMEs, a £2.2 billion grant scheme for small businesses, and a dedicated helpline for those who need a deferral period on their tax liabilities.
Sector leaders asked the Chancellor to recognise the impact COVID-19 could have on the voluntary and community sector – the people who, we’ve seen, are being asked to help support our hard-pressed public services and NHS. The Chancellor was asked to:
1. Immediately establish an emergency fund to support charities at risk of insolvency or significantly lower levels of fundraised or trading income due to economic disruption.
2. Implement immediate short term tax deferments or temporary waivers (for example VAT) to help charities experiencing cash flow crises to stay solvent.
3. Explicitly include charities, social enterprises and other social organisations in any economic stimulus packages and measures offered to support the business sector as part of the Government’s response to coronavirus or its aftermath and to consider the potential longer term impacts of the short term hiatus.
Like many in the voluntary and community sector, we’re very disappointed that the Chancellor has failed to address these issues. The contribution that charities and voluntary organisations make to our society as a whole, and in their local communities, needs to be recognised and supported.