March 2021 Budget reaction

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed his spring Budget in a statement to the House of Commons on 3 March. In it, he said furlough is to be extended at 80% of wages until September, and the Government will provide extra help for self-employed people and first-time buyers.

Corporation tax is set to be increased from 19% to 25% in April 2023, with some protections for smaller businesses. Income Tax thresholds – the level at which people start to pay tax and the level at which they begin to pay tax at the higher rate – will be frozen, meaning pay rises could pull people into paying tax, or paying the higher rate of tax. The £20 a week Universal Credit top up will be extended for another six months.

The Chancellor says the Budget he has delivered protects jobs and businesses and will bring prosperity across the UK. Critics say the Budget the measures Mr Sunak has taken don’t go far enough to protect businesses and livelihoods.

West London’s businesses and political representatives have had a mixed reaction to the Budget, see some of their responses below.

Images above: Andrew Dakers – CEO of West London Business, based Chiswick Business Park 

Chancellor had ‘No easy choices’ – West London Business CEO

Andrew Dakers is the CEO of West London Business, a group who are ‘the voice of business in North-West London’, covering seven local authority areas.

He told The Chiswick Calendar:

“We welcome some of the initiatives in terms of driving more green growth in our economy and we will watch keenly the progress made towards London becoming a censor for the carbon offset market. We also as a business community welcome the extension of the furlough scheme which was very much a priority.

“I think where there are concerns is that in west London, the lack of any substantial support on the aiports, on Heathrow and on business rates is worrying. Heathrow has reported a £2 billion loss and have an annual business rates bill of a £120 million, so that desperately needs support from the treasury. So the lack of any announcement there was very disappointing.

“I think as well in the wider business community there is clearly some level of concern around the increase in Corporation Tax rates. Having said that, I think everyone recognises the huge bill for the furloughing scheme and all the other pandemic response interventions has got to be paid for, and that tax burden has got to fall somewhere. There were no easy choices for the Chancellor to make in that regard.”

Image above: Simon Emeny – CEO of Fuller’s (right) will General Manager of George IV, Ben Bullman

Pleased but disappointed – Fuller’s CEO

Fuller, Smith & Turner is based in Chiswick and has been since 1845. Across the south of England they own and operate over 380 pubs, inns, and hotels across the south of England. The Bell & Crown and The George IV are two in Chiswick.

Commenting on the budget, Fuller’s Chief Executive Simon Emeny said:

“Today’s announcement provides a necessary financial bridge for getting us to full reopening, without restrictions, on 21 June. We are pleased The Chancellor recognised the precarious position the hospitality sector is in and we welcome the extensions to the Business Rates holiday, VAT reduction and the furlough scheme as well as the freeze on beer, wine and spirit duty. 

“However, It is vital that the rules on State Aid are clarified to remove us from the EU limits so we can take advantage of the grants on offer and the £2m cap on further Business Rates relief, which takes effect only days after we are due to reopen fully, is a major blow to larger businesses like Fuller’s. It was also disappointing that The Chancellor didn’t take the opportunity of widening the scope of the VAT cut to include beer, wine and spirits, which would have benefited those community pubs that have been hardest hit.
 
“We now have a roadmap to reopening, and the vital financial support needed to get us through the next few weeks. Infection rates are falling, the vaccine programme is continuing apace, and we are looking forward to getting our doors open, our teams back to work and returning to being a net contributor to the finances of UK PLC.”

Image above: Ruth Cadbury – MP for Brentford and Isleworth

‘Missed opportunity’ – Ruth Cadbury MP

After the Chancellor’s announcement the MP for Brentford and Isleworth, Ruth Cadbury, said in a statement to the Commons:

‘‘Since the last budget a year ago, the Chancellor has missed the opportunity to show the Government’s commitment to our NHS, our local economy in Hounslow and our efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

“It’s simply wrong that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak is freezing the pay of public sector key-workers such as police offices and teachers, while the Government wasted billions of pounds on faulty PPE and a failed test and trace system.

“There was nothing to address our housing crisis at a time when we need tens of thousands of social rent homes in London alone.

“The Chancellor also confirmed that the 17,000 people in my constituency on Universal Credit will see a £20 a week cut in 6 months’ time.  This will mean a cut to a vital lifeline they receive, while those on older ‘legacy benefits’ have still not received any additional support.  On top of that too many self-employed people remain excluded from any support.

“With the climate crisis continuing to be felt and the UK hosting COP26, the Chancellor had no solutions as to how the Government is going to create the well-paid and secure green jobs we need to see. The recent announcement of a new coal mine being opened shows that the Government is still trapped in the past.

“Lastly, there was little in this budget to support local areas particularly impacted by the pandemic. The unemployment rate has tripled around Heathrow, due to our area’s over-dependence on the aviation sector and its wider supply chain. However, the Chancellor once again had nothing new to offer for aviation communities.

“After 11 years of successive Conservative Governments failing to invest in our economy, failing to support our NHS and social care sector and failing to invest in our efforts to fight climate change it’s clear that this is yet another budget that fails to deliver.’’

Images above: John Holland-Kaye – Heathrow Airport’s CEO (Source: YouTube), a plane flies over Heathrow

Chancellor ‘continues to ignore’ aviation – Heathrow CEO

A recent report by Oxford Economics estimated that of the 72,100 people directly employed at the airport in 2019, 13.2%, or just over 9,500, commute from LB Hounslow. Another estimation shows that before Covid, Heathrow supported just over 16,000 jobs for Hounslow residents through indirect means.

Responding to the 3 March Budget, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said:

“The Chancellor talks about protecting jobs and livelihoods, fixing the public finances and laying the foundations for the future economy, and yet he continues to ignore the UK’s aviation sector.

“He clearly doesn’t understand that all three depend on a strong aviation sector delivering the trade, tourism and investment that power vast parts of the British economy. Failing to even mention aviation, let alone provide full business rates relief for airports in today’s Budget, is a missed opportunity to ensure the sector can play a key role in the country’s economic recovery.

“The absence of any meaningful support from the Government in the face of tough restrictions which have ground travel to a halt will weaken the sector and limit UK growth at the time it is needed most.”

Images above: Simon Randall inside Headliners Comedy Club (picture taken before the pandemic), inside Headliners Comedy Club

Live entertainment ‘largely unaffected’ – Headliners Comedy Club organiser

Live theatre is to restart on 17 May after a five-month hiatus due to the lockdown.

Headliners Comedy Club is based in the Boston Room at the back of the George IV pub on Chiswick High Road and has put on top level stand up comedy there for nearly 20 years.

In February, Headliners organiser Simon Randall said:

“Live entertainment seems to have made an enormous financial sacrifice on behalf of the rest of the country. It’s us that seem to have borne the brunt of everything and unfortunately we have not been in the receipt of any of the help, the billions and billions of pounds which has been sprayed around left right and centre to everybody except us.”

He had been hoping for live entertainment venues to be exempt from paying any VAT for the next 10 years or to even scrap it all together.

On the Chancellor’s budget, Simon said:

“Headliners will be largely unaffected by the budget this year because we’ve been unable to earn anything to pay tax on! Assuming things go back to normal, the changes will mean we’ll be have to increase revenue by around 10% just to stand still.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Rate of Covid infection in Chiswick continues to decline

See also: LB Hounslow leader justifies huge increase in councillors’ allowances planned for this year

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