Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the additional funding during his reveal of the UK Government’s 2020 Budget in the House of Commons today (11 March).
Sunak also announced that the planned increases in duty for spirits and beer would be cancelled, while cider and wine duties would be frozen as well.
“For only the second time in almost 20 years, that’s every single one of our alcohol duties frozen,” he added.
Sunak also announced £10m of new research and development funding to help distilleries become more environmentally friendly.
Cutting environmental impact
The environment played a big part in this year’s budget, with a focus on cutting the environmental impact of manufacturers.
Producers that rely on plastic packaging will be the worst-hit, with a new tax set to be implemented in April 2022 that will see a charge of £200 per tonne of packaging made from less than 30% recycled plastic.
Taxes on pollution will place more pressure on manufacturers to shift to greener sources of energy, which will result in an increase on taxes for gas usage and a decrease on electricity usage.
“Electricity is now a cleaner electricity form than gas, but our climate change levy – paid by companies – taxes electricity at a higher rate,” Sunak explained.
Greener transport was also factored into the Government’s budget plans, with £9m of funding set aside for research and development projects that investigate the adoption of electric vehicles.
Coronavirus had an inevitable part to play in this year’s Budget decisions, with Sunak dedicating time in his speech to discuss the financial relief available to businesses should they be impacted by the spread of COVID-19. the spread of which has been rapid in the past month alone.
“If we expect 20% of the workforce to be unable to work at any one time, the cumulative cost would hit our small and medium-sized businesses hard,” said Sunak.
“In recognition of these exceptional circumstances, businesses with fewer than 250 employees, I have decided the cost of providing statutory sick pay to any employee off work due to Coronavirus will – for up to 14 days – be refunded by the Government in full.”
Such a move would provide £2bn to 2m businesses, according to Sunak. Steps are also being taken to help businesses to defer tax payments over a period of time, with a dedicated helpline set up for employers with payment issues affected by the virus.
Coronavirus loan scheme
A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank was announced. That will enable businesses with a turnover of no more than £41m to apply for a loan of up to £1.2m, with the Government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. This will unlock up to £1bn pounds to protect and support small businesses.
A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities to receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement.
There will be a £3,000 cash grant to 700,000 of the smallest businesses, delivered by Local Authorities, and worth £2bn.