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Rishi Sunak presented his much anticipated budget earlier this week and the Downtown in Business chief executive believes that it was a positive announcement – as far as it went.

“This budget is welcomed. It tackles the problems around the pandemic and helps companies plan for the medium term. Business will appreciate the extension of furlough until the end of September, doubling the incentive to £3,000 for taking on apprentices, the 100% business rates holiday until the end of June, and the Super Deduction, allowing firms to claim 130% back against investment in equipment. 

“The additional grants for the self-employed are also welcomed, although many still have difficulty accessing the support,” said Frank McKenna.

He continued: “The Chancellor has listened to campaigns like ours around the hospitality industry. The Re-start grants will help retailers, restaurants, and leisure facilities, and his continued VAT reductions for the sector are positive. 

Whilst a new Recovery Loan Scheme, with lending of between £25,000 and £5m, could assist businesses, the reality is that banks will just say ‘no’ to most applicants. With the Government only guaranteeing 80% of the loan, as we saw last time, financial institutions just won’t lend. The Chancellor needs to pressure the banks to do more.” 

Frank continued: “We had been calling for a UK Infrastructure Bank to be created, during his Autumn Statement, so I am pleased that is now being established and that it will be in Leeds. 

“The freeport initiative is also a positive way of stimulating local economies in key areas, particularly post-Brexit, and the New Towns Deal funding is a good way of getting money to key local communities. 

“However, with the financial difficulties our country faces, it’s fair to say that the Chancellor has stepped back from making any significant funding commitments to large-scale infrastructure projects. There was little for major transport initiatives, particularly in the Midlands and North of the country.” 

Frank finally stated: “Overall, this was a positive budget which will help UK businesses in the short term and help them prepare for a longer-term future. The next challenge for the Chancellor is to sustain the economic forecasts that he gave today and keep the UK economy on track for recovery. That is the real challenge.” 

Downtown in Business