LiveCoronavirus in Sheffield LIVE: Rishi Sunak to extend furlough scheme to September in Budget with new support for self-employed

Welcome to The Star’s live blog on Wednesday, March 3.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 7:45 am

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Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, walks from the Treasury to No 11 Downing Street, London, the day before delivering his budget. Picture date: Tuesday March 2, 2021.

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Rishi Sunak said the rate of corporation tax paid on company profits will increase to 25% in 2023.

He told MPs: “Even after this change the UK will still have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G7 – lower than the United States, Canada, Italy, Japan, Germany and France.”

He added: “First, this new higher rate won’t take effect until April 2023, well after the point when the OBR expect the economy to have recovered. And even then, because corporation tax is only charged on profits, any struggling businesses will, by definition, be unaffected.

“Second, I’m protecting small businesses with profits of £50,000 or less, by creating a small profits rate, maintained at the current rate of 19%. This means around 70% of companies – 1.4 million businesses – will be completely unaffected.”

Rishi Sunak said the 5% reduced rate of VAT will be extended for six months to September 30, telling MPs: “Even then, we won’t go straight back to the 20% rate.

“We’ll have an interim rate of 12.5% for another six months; not returning to the standard rate until April next year. In total, we’re cutting VAT next year by almost £5 billion.”

The stamp duty cut will continue until the end of June, with the nil rate band set at £250,000 – double its standard level – until the end of September, the Chancellor said.

On stamp duty, Rishi Sunak told MPs: “I can announce today the £500,000 nil rate band will not end on March 31, it will end on June 30.

“Then, to smooth the transition back to normal, the nil rate band will be £250,000, double its standard level, until the end of September – and we will only return to the usual level of £125,000 from October 1.”

Mr Sunak said the business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors would continue until the end of June, and would be discounted by two thirds for the remaining nine months of the year.

Rishi Sunak said some businesses will still need loans to see them through despite the restart grants, telling MPs: “As the Bounce Back Loan and CBIL schemes come to an end, we’re introducing a new recovery loan scheme to take their place.

“Businesses of any size can apply for loans from £25,000 up to £10 million, through to the end of this year.”

Rishi Sunak said the 100% business rates holiday in England will continue from April until June, telling MPs: “For the remaining nine months of the year, business rates will still be discounted by two-thirds, up to a value of £2 million for closed businesses, with a lower cap for those who have been able to stay open.

Mr Sunak said the 5% reduced rate of VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector will be extended for six months to the end of September, with an interim rate of 12.5% for another six months after that.

“A £6 billion tax cut for business.”

Rishi Sunak said a “new restart grant” will be provided in April to help businesses reopen.

He told MPs: “Non-essential retail businesses will open first, so they’ll receive grants of up to £6,000 per premises.

“Hospitality and leisure businesses, including personal care and gyms, will open later, or be more impacted by restrictions when they do, so we’ll give them grants of up to £18,000.

“That’s £5 billion of new grants, on top of the £20 billion we’ve already provided.”

Rishi Sunak announced an extra £19 million for domestic violence programmes, telling MPs: “To reduce the risk of reoffending, and to pilot a network of ‘respite rooms’ to provide specialist support for vulnerable homeless women, to recognise the sacrifices made by so many women and men in the armed forces community, I’m providing an additional £10m to support veterans with mental health needs.”

Rishi Sunak said the £20 weekly increase for Universal Credit will continue for a further six months.

He also said the minimum wage will increase to £8.91 an hour from April.

On apprenticeships, Mr Sunak said: “I’m doubling the incentive payments we give businesses to £3,000 – that’s for all new hires, of any age.”

Rishi Sunak said the full 80% grant will be given to people whose turnover has fallen by 30% or more, telling MPs: “People whose turnover has fallen by less than 30% will therefore have less need of taxpayer support and will receive a 30% grant.”

On changes to the self-employed scheme, the Chancellor said: “When the scheme was launched, the newly self-employed couldn’t qualify because they hadn’t all filed a 2019/20 tax return.

“But as the tax return deadline has now passed, I can announce today that, provided they filed a tax return by midnight last night, over 600,000 more people, many of whom only became self-employed last year, can now claim the fourth and fifth grants.”

Rishi Sunak confirmed the furlough scheme will be extended until the end of September, and employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked.

He told MPs: “As businesses reopen, we’ll ask them to contribute alongside the taxpayer to the cost of paying their employees. Nothing will change until July, when we will ask for a small contribution of just 10% and 20% in August and September.”

Mr Sunak said the support for self-employed workers will also continue until September, with the fourth grant providing three months of support at 80% of average trading profits. He noted for the fifth grant, people will continue to receive grants worth three months of average profits – with the system open for claims from late July.

Rishi Sunak said the forecasts show the response to Covid-19 is “working”, adding: “The Office for Budget Responsibility is now forecasting, in their words ‘a swifter and more sustained recovery’ than they expected in November.

“The OBR now expects the economy to return to its pre-Covid level by the middle of next year – six months earlier than they previously thought. That means growth is faster, unemployment lower, wages higher, investment higher, household incomes higher.”

The Chancellor says it will take the UK and the whole world a “long time to recover from this extraordinary economic situation”, telling MPs: “But we will recover.”

He says more than 700,000 people have lost their jobs since March 2020 and the economy has shrunk by 10%, the largest fall in more than 300 years: “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.”

Mr Sunak says Covid-19 has “fundamentally altered” our way of life.

He tells the Commons: “Much has changed, but one thing has stayed the same: I said I would do whatever it takes – I have done and I will do.”

Healthy 17-year-old dies with coronavirus as death toll also rises again in South Yorkshire

Healthy 17-year-old dies with coronavirus as death toll also rises again in South Yorkshire

A 17-year-old with no underlying health conditions has died with coronavirus as South Yorkshire’s death toll also rose again.

What else might be announced?

An extension to the £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit for six months has also been mooted, as have plans to freeze the lifetime allowance – the amount people can save in their pension pot before tax charges kick in – at just over £1 million.

The Tory manifesto in 2019 promised not to raise the rates of income tax, National Insurance or VAT, and Mr Sunak has also been warned against raising taxes now by several Conservative MPs.

Mr Sunak spoke to the Queen on Tuesday evening ahead of his Budget, as per tradition.

The Chancellor is set to outline a three-point plan to support people through the coming months, rebuild the economy and fix the ravaged public finances in the wake of the pandemic.

In his statement to the Commons on Wednesday, he will build on the £280 billion package of support already given by the Treasury during the crisis, with plans to extend the furlough scheme until the end of September.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has protected more than 11 million jobs since its inception, but under plans to taper the Government’s contribution, employers will be expected to pay 10% towards the hours their staff do not work in July.

Their contribution will increase to 20% in August and September, as the economy reopens, but employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked until the scheme ends. It had been due to close at the end of April.

“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.”

Sheffield runners feel ‘targeted’ as experts call for joggers to wear masks in busy areas

Sheffield runners feel ‘targeted’ as experts call for joggers to wear masks in busy areas

Experts have said that running close to people may put them in ‘danger’ if you do not wear a mask – but Sheffield runners are feeling ‘targeted’.

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