Coronavirus, Budget 2021

Coronavirus, Budget 2021

Budget 2021 - live updates: Chancellor Rishi Sunak giving 5pm press conference after budget that will raise tax burden to highest level since 60s

The Chancellor explains that the country must pay for £400bn in #coronavirus spending. Get live #Budget2021 analysis:

3/3/2021 7:15:00 PM

The Chancellor explains that the country must pay for £400bn in coronavirus spending. Get live Budget2021 analysis:

Latest updates as Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils his crucial economic plan to help the UK's recovery from the COVID pandemic.

; business rates, VAT and stamp duty reductions extended; contactless limit more than doublesEd Conway answers your questions at 7.30pm - Got a question about what budget means for you? Tweet us with the hashtag #SkyNewsBlog or email and our economics editor will answer them right here this evening

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A special budget edition of the Sky News Daily podcast will be available to listen to from 7pmUpdates by Connor SephtonPM: Budget will help 'unleash the potential of the United Kingdom'15:36Greater Manchester mayor: 'I would describe it as a packet of Polos budget'

"In some ways refreshing but also full of holes," is Andy Burnham's verdict.He welcomed the extension of furlough and keeping the uplift in Universal Credit for a further six months, but called for more to be done to help those still excluded from support.

And he said no mention of social care was"something of an insult".15:22Big praise from a former Labour MPFrank Field - who now sits in the House of Lords - was full of praise for the chancellor's statement.He also says that the arrival of a freeport in Liverpool will be"good news for local jobs". He tweeted:

15:15Analysis: Good news for the arts in the budget, but freelancers fall through the cracksBy Lucy Cotter, arts and entertainment correspondentIt's very hard to argue that an extra £300m in support for the arts - which will top up the culture recovery fund - is a bad thing.

That said, it is significantly lower than the figure of £400m that was doing the rounds yesterday.The £1.57bn fund launched last year undoubtedly saved many venues, museums and galleries from permanent closure.The extension of the furlough scheme will also be hugely beneficial to people working across the creative industries, in our theatres, cinemas and live events, so many of which have been closed for much of the pandemic and will be among the last to open.

However, the big criticism of the government's recovery fund when it was launched was its focus on buildings and institutions and not people - and that criticism continues today.Despite announcing an extension to the self-employed scheme many freelancers who form the bedrock of the arts - actors, musicians and performers - have received nothing and continue to fall through the cracks.

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There will also be disappointment across the sector that the chancellor didn't announce a government-backed COVID cancellation insurance scheme, which could have significantly helped the events sector this summer.14:58Analysis: Corbyn fires left-wing warning shot

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondentJeremy Corbyn leads the Labour left's onslaught on the budget. He attacks the fire-and-rehire policies of companies like British Gas and British Airways and accuses the chancellor of freezing the pay of public sector workers.

He claims it was his friend and ally John McDonnell, who was shadow chancellor until last April, who first proposed the furlough scheme. Mr Sunak had clearly read Mr McDonnell's policies from the December 2019 election, Mr Corbyn also claims.The green industrial revolution, mentioned towards the end of the budget, was a Labour policy, he says, in a serious and humourless speech devoid of any welcome for any of the chancellor's measures.

Mr Corbyn's uncompromising speech is almost certainly a warning shot that Sir Keir Starmer can expect strong opposition from the left if he soft pedals in his attacks on the budget in the days and weeks ahead.14:57More bad news for the embattled aviation sector?

Sky News journalist Scott Beasley notes that - while duty has been frozen for things like fuel and alcohol - air passenger duty is still going up:14:55OBR: Brexit and COVID will cause GDP hit in first three months of 2021A fall in EU-UK trade as a result of Brexit and coronavirus is expected to cause a 0.5% fall in gross domestic product (GDP) over the first three months of 2021, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

It said there had been a 10% to 15% reduction in heavy goods vehicle traffic around Dover in the second half of January compared to a year earlier, although official figures are not set to be released until next week.The OBR said it is not clear how much of the supposed reduction was as a result of Britain's EU departure as the picture was"clouded" by health checks on drivers at the border to prevent a new strain of COVID-19 from being carried from the UK into France.

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14:53'This budget will see the UK continue as a low-growth economy'Richard Burgon, the Labour MP for East Leeds, is among the opposition politicians taking a dim view of the budget. He tweeted:14:51Lib Dems: Chancellor's budget 'fell far short of what is needed'

Christine Jardine MP, the party's Treasury spokesperson, says small businesses"across the country remain on the brink" while"millions of workers remain excluded from government support altogether".She says:"Small businesses were looking to the chancellor to give them a lifeline - something to give them hope of getting through the next few months. Instead for many, the chancellor's paltry proposals for small business support will have crushed those hopes.

"From beauticians to launderettes, florists to café owners - small businesses in our communities and the millions who depend on them are left looking over a cliff-edge. The chancellor had the opportunity to save them today, but instead he fell far short of what is needed.

"We needed a plan today which was ambitious for the small businesses which are the heart of our local communities and set us on the road towards a strong and green economy of the future."14:51A bittersweet reaction from the Federation of Small Businesses

On Twitter, its chairman Mike Cherry writes:"Today's budget will help many small firms with their final push through to September, but there is little here to aid job creation or help people return to work."Ensuring the newly self-employed can now access support marks a big step forward - we're pleased our campaign has been heard - but directors, who appear to be left out yet again, will be incredibly disappointed."

14:48Analysis: A Sajid-Rishi love-inBy Jon Craig, chief political correspondentSajid Javid, chancellor for such a short time - about six months - that he never delivered a budget, heaps praise on his successor from the Tory back benches.On the government front bench, his successor turns round and is suddenly paying attention to his friend and former boss.

The chancellor was"absolutely right to level with the British people", says Mr Javid. Mr Sunak is soon nodding in agreement. It's a love-in."I'm in no doubt that the chancellor will rise to the occasion," the former chancellor gushes.

He will surely be back in the cabinet whenever the next reshuffle comes.14:44What happens next?The House of Commons has tweeted this very helpful guide to what will happen now Mr Sunak has given his budget statement to MPs.Some measures can come into effect immediately - while others might take a few months (or years) to kick in.

But the budget's journey is far from over, with debates and votes on the horizon. Prior to the chancellor speaking, some Conservative rebels also suggested that they would vote against the budget if it included tax rises.14:40Pubs 'need to be supported in the long-term'

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of British Beer & Pub Association, says the extension of the furlough scheme will"save thousands of pub jobs" and adds that it"gives the sector time to reopen and rebuild trade before bringing all staff back, which would otherwise be too costly and unviable whilst still facing trading restrictions until end of June".

"It is imperative that the Government allows pubs to operate without restrictions as planned from 21st June. This will give them the best chance to get back on their feet and serve their communities," she continues.Ms McClarkin says the extension of the VAT cut is"most welcome", while she also welcomes the business rates holiday being extended also.

"This is good news, but the proposed cap will mean many pub businesses will not benefit fully from this. We await to see more detail," she says regarding business rates.Ms McClarkin calls for a cut in beer duty, saying:"The government must support and promote Britain's extraordinary pub and brewing sector in the way other Government’s support their domestic industries."

"Overall, this is a good Budget for pubs and breweries in the short term, reflecting just how vital they are to the social, cultural and economic fabric of our communities," she continues"However, this is just the start of the journey on the hard road to long-term recovery for our sector.

"The chancellor has made it clear today he recognises the vital role local pubs play in their communities. Now he must continue that commitment by ensuring Britain’s pubs and breweries are supported in the long term."14:38Was Sunak's budget enough for businesses?

Reaction has been fairly mixed - our correspondent Helen-Ann Smith tweets:14:28Lack of cancellation insurance schemes for music festivals raised in wake of budgetJulian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, says:"It is welcome that the Treasury has listened to the case pressed by this committee for additional support for our outstanding arts, creative and sporting sectors that have been hit so hard by the impact of the pandemic.

"However, it is greatly disappointing that the government appears not to have heard our call to give its backing to cancellation insurance schemes for festivals which would provide a safety net should organisers need to cancel plans and enable more to go ahead with confidence this summer."

And Greg Parmley, CEO of Live, the UK's official industry body for live music, is also calling for such a scheme to support festivals."Today's budget focused on helping live music to survive the long months of closure still ahead of us - and we desperately need that," he said.

"But we also call on the chancellor to look again at a government-backed insurance scheme, which would ensure we can recover, and get people back to work, as quickly as possible once it is safe to lift restrictions."14:24Analysis: Rishi: dreaming of Number 10?

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondentThe SNP's Ian Blackford begins his speech by complaining about how much of the budget has been reported in the media already. We can't see Mr Sunak's response, because he has a huge black mask that covers most of his face.

But we can be sure he doesn't care. All part of the"Rishi for PM" campaign.At one point during Mr Blackford's characteristically long-winded speech, the chancellor appears to be daydreaming as he leans back on the government front bench.

Daydreaming of what? Moving next door from Number 11 to Number 10 Downing Street and succeeding Boris Johnson as prime minister, almost certainly.After the glitzy public relations blitz of the past week - a polished video, a chat with Gordon Ramsey, another with the Queen and slick photos, including one in his car on his way to parliament - he has made Gordon Brown's long campaign to succeed Tony Blair as prime minister look amateurish and half-hearted in comparison.

14:23Criticism over lack of health and social care announcementsOn the subject of former advisors, this is from a ex-special advisor to current health secretary Matt Hancock.He says more should have been done to support the health and social care sectors, hinting at the damage wrought to each by the pandemic.

14:17Capital spending and corporation tax plans prompt unlikely comparisonsAs has been widely observed, the huge spending and plan to increase corporation tax to 25% outlined in the budget puts Labour in a difficult position.If the opposition had planned to claim the government was embarking on a new wave of austerity, Rishi Sunak's pledge not to cut public spending to balance the books will have created a sizeable hole in that strategy.

And while relatively deep spending cuts loom from 2023 onwards, the nature of the continued investment announced for the next two years has prompted this observation from the former advisor to former shadow chancellor John McDonnell.14:12Unions attack 'deafening' silence on pay for public sector workers

Officials from unions that represent hundreds of thousands of public sector workers have described the budget as an"insult".Many public sector workers are facing a pay freeze this year despite calls for an increase because of their efforts during the coronavirus crisis.

GMB national officer Rehana Azam said:"The chancellor can dance around his living room with the ministerial red box all he wants, but all this budget shows to public sector workers is that his clapping is a worthless gesture."Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, added: "His refusal to lift the pay cap on civil servants and other public sector workers, who have kept the country going during the pandemic, is a disgrace and economically illiterate."

In what could be interpreted as a warning that industrial action may follow, he said:"It is clear the government will not listen to public sector workers on pay, and therefore a united trade union movement must be prepared to take action together in order for our members to see pay justice."

14:08Sunak hoping to give confidence to business - and stave off an unemployment crisisBy Paul Kelso, business correspondentLike the rest of us, Rishi Sunak probably wanted to look forward to life after COVID - but the continued grip of the virus on the UK did not give him, or us, that luxury.

So this budget was most significant for being yet another emergency statement, committing £65bn to broadly extend state support to business and individuals for another seven months to September.Extensions to furlough, VAT relief, business rate holidays and fresh grants to companies are largely in line with what business was calling for.

By pushing most of these to September, well beyond the provisional 21 June date for a full reopening of the economy, he is hoping to give confidence to business, and crucially trying to stave off an unemployment crisis.Perhaps the most important number we heard today then is the OBR forecast that joblessness will peak at"just" 6.5%, a figure that could see around one million more people out of work, but many fewer than the 11% forecasters were predicting.

If that is right, then Mr Sunak will not be alone in considering it a good outcome.14:05Corporation tax going up to 25% - how does that compare with other countries?Rishi Sunak says the rise, due to take place in 2023, will ensure that the UK continues to have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G7 - lower than the US, Canada, Italy, Japan, Germany and France.

However, the rise will put the UK above the EU average of 21.7%.Corporation tax in the US currently stands at 27% - something that Joe Biden has said he's looking to increase. France's rate is at 26.5%, Germany's at 30%, Canada at 26.5%, Japan at a very precise 30.62%, and Italy at 24%.

14:05Ed Conway answers your questions at 7.30pmGot a question about what budget means for you? Tweet us with the hashtag #SkyNewsBlog or email and our economics editor will answer them right here this evening.14:04How much is the government planning to borrow?

As we can see in the chart below, today's announcement heralds major borrowing over the next two years, before a relatively sharp fall.Much of this drop will be the result of the projected economic recovery, as shown in the post at 13.15.14:01Good news for grassroots football

As you'll recall, the chancellor announced that the government is backing a potential joint bid from the UK and Ireland to host the 2030 World Cup.Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has revealed that £25m has been set aside to build 700 football pitches in support of that bid - with an extra £1.2m put towards the England-hosted Women's European Championship due to take place next year.

13:57What does income tax threshold freeze actually mean for people? Our deputy political editor has looked at the maths...13:57Analysis: Universal Credit uplift extended, but does perfect storm lie ahead?By Nick Martin, people and politics correspondent

It's astonishing to note that the number of people claiming Universal Credit has doubled since the pandemic began.To help people during the crisis, the government raised payments by £20 per week - but said that would end in April.For months now, it's been clear that the government would have to extend that. Today, they have.

That so-called"uplift" will remain in place for another six months.I'm with Becky Jones, a mum-of-three on Universal Credit who is trying to find work. She's just told me:"It's right that the government have kept the extra money going. I don't know what I'd do if I lost £80 a month. But what happens in six months? We'd be back to square one? It needs to stay."

The problem here is that the Universal Credit uplift will now end when furlough does - and that could be a perfect storm that could leave millions of people worse off than they are now.13:48: Keir saves the best until lastBy Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

To be fair to Sir Keir, responding to the budget is a particularly tough gig in a near-empty Commons chamber.Another attempted joke, about help for the self-employed"unless you're one of the chancellor's photographers", falls flat. He looks behind him for encouragement, laughter, or cheers.

But the mood on the Labour benches appears to be as flat as the party leader's jokes. Memo to Labour whips: Tory MPs offered much better support to the chancellor than Sir Keir is receiving from his MPs.Now Sir Keir is reading out headlines from newspapers. Not much enthusiasm for that from behind him, either.

But he saves the best until last and ends with a really good line:"One day, we'll all be able to take our masks off and so will the chancellor… And we'll see who he really is."13:48West Midlands misses out on major budget boostWhile a range of capital investments and other major schemes were announced in various parts of the UK, none of those areas are located in the West Midlands.

This is a fact not lost on the region's shadow mayor, Labour MP Liam Byrne.The actual mayor, Andy Street, did receive a warm mention from the chancellor during his statement.He posted the hopeful tweet below in advance of the speech - but had conspicuously not followed that up with any celebratory posts at the time of writing.

13:45Treasury Select Committee chair gives verdict on chancellor's budgetMel Stride says the"devil is always in the detail" when it comes to budgets.He says he"applauds" measures taken by the chancellor, citing among other things the extension of furlough and business rates relief.

However, he queries whether more can be done to help those who are self-employed, in particular company directors.Mr Stride says the rise in corporation tax is"quite a hike" but"reasonable".Mr Stride says he"broadly welcomes" the measures at a difficult time for the economy, but he adds"there is hope".

13:38: Sir Keir's jokes fall flatBy Jon Craig, chief political correspondentSir Keir begins his response with some attempts at humour, which are not hugely successful.He says how pleased he is to be standing opposite the person actually making decisions for the government.

And then he mocks the chancellor's glossy pre-budget"PR video" and says it must of cost so much he half expected it to be included in the Office of Budget Responsibility's forecasts.Cue laughter? Well, sadly for Sir Keir, there wasn't. It fell flat, even on the benches behind him.

Labour MPs did enjoy, however, his reference to the chancellor's"next door neighbour" – the prime minister - spending thousands of pounds doing up his flat.Not sure jokes are Sir Keir's forte.13:38'So much for Generation Buy'

Sir Keir says plans to offer government guarantees for 95% mortgages will have a similar effect to a policy pursued by David Cameron eight years ago that"pushed up prices and made owning a home more difficult".He accuses the chancellor of"giving up" rather than"levelling up" - and says Mr Sunak should focus on ensuring that the government's Brexit deal works for Britain's manufacturers,"who now face more red tape when they were promised less".

The Labour leader says announcements on business rates relief and the extension in VAT cuts for hospitality are welcome but overdue."There are very few silver livings in this budget ... no taxes should have been raised."Sir Keir suggests that Mr Sunak is increasing taxes now so he can cut them as the election nears, warning:"

The proper basis for making tax decisions is the economic cycle, not the electoral cycle."13:36Sunak not short changed by photographersAt a relatively diminutive 5ft 6ins, Rishi Sunak is 3ins shorter than the average height for adult males in the UK.

This is not a fact that may have been apparent to anyone who has seen the images released by his department today, which many are suggesting have been carefully choreographed to conceal the chancellor's compact stature.You decide...No mention of B word

Analysis from Paul Kelso, business correspondentRishi Sunak sits down after a 56-minute speech that was more emergency statement than traditional financial statement and contained not a single mention of Brexit, which in normal times would have been the defining economic challenge of the day.

13:29'I'm sure this budget will look better on Instagram'Sir Keir Starmer says Rishi Sunak's film crew will struggle to put a positive spin on this budget.The Labour leader says the budget"papered over the cracks rather than rebuilding the foundations".

He warns the budget won't feel good for millions of key workers having their pay frozen."We heard nothing about a long-term plan to fix social care," he tells the Commons.Sir Keir says that, as a result of Mr Sunak's decisions in recent months, we have suffered"deeper economic damage and much worse outcomes".

He tells MPs:"The chancellor barely mentioned inequality, let alone tried to address it."The leader of the Opposition also claims that Mr Sunak was"dragged kicking and screaming" to extend the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit.

"If this budget was serious about rebuilding our shattered economy, it would have included a credible plan to tackle unemployment," he adds.Sir Keir also claims this budget stops short of what's needed for the environment - and attacks the government for trying to build a coal mine.

He describes the Statutory Sick Pay system as"broken" - and says that there are"glaring" holes in the payments offered to those who have to isolate because of COVID-19.13:29: Keir pressureBy Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

It's always claimed that one of the hardest jobs in politics falls to the leader of the Opposition – traditionally not the shadow chancellor - responding to the budget.In the past, the budget was shrouded in so much secrecy that the Opposition leader had to think on his or her feet and react to the surprise announcements and rabbits pulled out of the hat by the chancellor.

Not this time. As Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle remarked with an annoyed tone in his voice during Prime Minister's Questions, we already knew most of the contents of the budget.So that makes Sir Keir Starmer's task a little easier. But only a little. Yes, he's had plenty of time to prepare his responses to all the budget measures trailed in advance.

But after a rocky few weeks and some grim opinion poll ratings over the weekend, the Labour leader needs a good performance here to hit back at his critics inside and outside his party.So no pressure then, Sir Keir.13:26Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will soon give his reaction to the chancellor's budget

13:26'An important moment is upon us': Chancellor wraps up"Whilst this last year has been a test unlike any other, that which we are, we are. The fundamentals of our character as a people have not changed," Rishi Sunak says."Still determined, still generous, still fair. That’s what got us through the last year; it’s what will guide us through the next decade and beyond.

"This time last year we set out to deliver on the promises we made to the British people."But the most important promise was implicit and, in truth, is made by every government, irrespective of their politics. And that is to do what must be done, when the danger is imminent, and when no one else can.

"Today we set out a plan to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people. But the promises that underpin that plan, remain unchanged from those we pledged ourselves to twelve long months ago".The chancellor adds:"An important moment is upon us. A moment of challenge and of change. Of difficulties, yes, but of possibilities too. This is a budget that meets that moment."

13:24Rishi Sunak announces eight freeportsThe chancellor says these are"special economic zones with different rules to make it easier and cheaper to do business"."Our Freeports will have: Simpler planning – to allow businesses to build; Infrastructure funding – to improve transport links; Cheaper customs – with favourable tariffs, VAT or duties; And lower taxes – with tax breaks to encourage construction, private investment and job creation," Mr Sunak says.

The eight freeports are: East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside.13:22Statement triggers snap election speculationThe nature of this budget statement has prompted plenty of speculation around a potential early election, which may also be fueled by recent Tory poll leads.

Not every polling expert is convinced, however.13:21Chancellor sets out new funding and investment for devolved administrationsRishi Sunak says the future economy"depends on remaining a United Kingdom"."Millions of families and businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have contributed to and benefitted from our coronavirus response. And central to that has been a Treasury that acts for the whole United Kingdom. That’s not a political point, it’s an undeniable truth.

"The majority of today’s Budget measures will apply directly to people in all four nations of the UK."He announces: three accelerated Scottish City and Growth Deals in Ayrshire, Argyll and Bute, and Falkirk; three more in North Wales, Mid Wales, and Swansea Bay; and funding for the Holyhead hydrogen hub, the Global Centre of Rail Excellence in Neath Port Talbot, the Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone… As well as the Global Underwater Hub and the North Sea transition deal. Along with the first allocations of the £400m New Deal for Northern Ireland.

Funding for the devolved administrations will also increase by £1.2bn for the Scottish government; £740m for the Welsh government and £410m for the Northern Ireland executive.There will also be £1bn for 45 new towns deals and a £150m fund to help communities take ownership of pubs, theatres, shops, sports clubs at risk of loss.

13:18 Read more: Sky News »

Covid: PM praises 'patience' as England restrictions ease - BBC News

Boris Johnson says the next step on the lockdown roadmap can happen, with retail and hospitality reopening.

McrCladiators ukcag MelissaLawford EOCS_Official Conservatives this is nowhere near enough - barely scratches the surface and leaves everybody else to rot and go bankrupt