‘We still need more help’: Britons respond to Rishi Sunak’s Budget

Workers and business owners give their views on chancellor’s announcement

Adam Forrest
Thursday 04 March 2021 07:42 GMT
Budget 2021: Total UK Covid relief package worth £407bn, Sunak says

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised to do “whatever it takes” to steer the British economy through what he hopes will be the final months of Covid lockdown restrictions.

The furlough scheme, support for self-employed, a VAT cut for hospitality and the £20-a-week uplift in universal credit will all continue until September, his Budget statement revealed.

Are the measures enough to keep people going? Business owners, furloughed workers, carers and public sector staff told The Independent what they thought of Mr Sunak’s “fiscal firepower”.

Monique Jackson, 31, artist living in London

Monique Jackson (Rob Pinney)

I’m pleased the furlough scheme has been extended. I’m still ill from long Covid almost a year after getting the virus. Furlough has been an essential means of financial support since I’ve been unable to work at my job at an art gallery in central London.

Being sick has been expensive – having to pay for transport to hospital, medication and moving house.

I had hoped that health care workers in the NHS are paid more. I’ve depended on the good will of those working really hard during this exceptionally difficult year and their efforts should be rewarded.

Shahab Uddin, 48, owner of Streetly Balti restaurant in Birmingham

Restaurant owner Shahab Uddin (Shahab Uddin)

The £5bn fund for hospitality businesses is the kind of initiative I had been hoping for. My only issue is that these kind of schemes have seemed to favour the big high street boys first and by the time the money trickles down to us small businesses, it’s a negligible amount.

Most of us had to write off 2020 as a loss year, and now 2021 looks like it’s going to be the same.

The grants and schemes made available so far have been very minimal and were very quickly used up by most companies just stay afloat.

The government now needs to loosen its purse strings a bit more. We still need more help.

Those of us who survive will be deep in debt – if Rishi Sunak and the government could find a solution to alleviate the debt accrued that really would be fantastic.

Steve Clarke, 61, carer and housing campaigner in Wales

Housing campaigner Steve Clarke (Steve Clarke)

I wanted Rishi Sunak to provide support for home carers who have had no additional support to look after their loved ones. So it’s disappointing there was nothing new for us, considering what we’ve had to contend with during the pandemic.

Extending the uplift in universal credit for six months will be welcome for a lot of people, but six months will come and go pretty fast – I had hoped something more permanent could have been done.

When it comes to housing, the emphasis is on home ownership again. But we could have done with something more to help people in rented accommodation – perhaps even something bold like a rent cap during what will be a very difficult year for people.

Joanne Whitehead, 40, business consultant in Skipton, Yorkshire

Business consultant Joanne Whitehead (Joanne Whitehead)

As a small business owner who works with other small business owners, it’s been hard to explain the lack of help available for directors of a limited company. They can of course furlough staff, as many have done, but there is very little support for them personally as they are part of the three million people excluded from Treasury schemes.

I’m glad furlough has been extended. But there are people who have taken risks and made sacrifices to build a business, create jobs and pay taxes. Yet we have been ignored.

I would have liked to see NHS workers to get a real-terms pay rise.

The government likes to cite how much has gone into the NHS but that hasn’t equated to the doctors, nurses and cleaners who have done amazing work having more money in their pocket.

Nick Ralls, 50, chief executive of Ironbridge Gorge museum in Shropshire

Nick Ralls runs Ironbridge Gorge museum (Nick Ralls)

The support being unveiled by the chancellor is absolutely vital. We’ve been able to get funding to keep going from the cultural recovery fund. It’s been a lifeline.

It’s supported the running costs of museums like ours when we’ve had very limited ability to generate funds. So I’m pleased there’s going to be more [another £300m] given to the cultural recovery fund. It’s been a tough and worrying 12 months for everyone.

As we tentatively emerge from the lockdown restrictions, it will be more important than ever to make sure people can access museums and art galleries as we begin to reconnect again as a society.

Simon Kidwell, 50, primary school headteacher in Cheshire

Simon Kidwell, primary school headteacher (Simon Kidwell)

It’s important to make sure children receive a rich curriculum, with the very best teaching, on their return to classes from next week.

The government has made additional funds available through the catch-up premium.

However, for many schools the catch-up premium will not make up for the loss of income from extended school activities like wrap-around care.

We are estimating a shortfall of over £70,000 at our school.

I would have liked the chancellor to make a commitment to support all schools in similar situations.

Bryony Lewis, 36, founder of online gift site T & Belle

Online retailer Bryony Lewis (Bryony Lewis)

There was talk about a possible online sales tax, and I’m relieved that hasn’t happened in the Budget.

I’m still worried the idea is hanging there, as a possibility in future, when small online businesses are still reeling from the pandemic and Brexit.

I’m operating as a sole trader, so I’m one of those who have slipped through the cracks and don’t get any business support for the self-employed.

Like a lot of businesses, I’ve had a lot problems with Brexit – problems getting stock from overseas and problems shipping overseas. Those problems were left out of the Budget.

I’m also slightly surprised there nothing more for NHS and key workers holding up the country.

Lana Walker, 52, founder of Body & Mind Holistics in Cumbria

Cumbria-based business owner Lana Walker (Lana Walker)

The chancellor has said that no one would be left behind. He hasn’t stuck to his word.

I was newly set up as a sole trader just before the pandemic hit, and like a lot of other people in my situation we haven’t been get any of the support made available for the self-employed, which the chancellor extended today.

The economy isn’t going to magically spring back in summer. So I hope this isn’t the last opportunity Rishi Sunak feels he can come up with support.

If he was to provide the desperately needed grants for the three million people who have been excluded from any financial support, he would be doing the right thing.

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