Britain’s Treasury chief has announced a STG30 billion ($ A60 billion) package of measures designed to help the economy in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has acknowledged the British people are worried about the threat posed by the virus “but they are not daunted”, he said.
Sunak said there was likely to be a temporary disruption to the economy as a result of coronavirus, but insisted his plans would bring stability and security.
Measures set out included:
– A STG1 billion ($ A2 billion) business rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality firms with a rateable value of under STG51,000 ($ A101,400).
– The government will fully meet the cost of providing statutory sick pay for up to 14 days for workers in firms with up to 250 employees, providing over STG2 billion ($ A4 billion) for up to two million businesses.
– Reforms to the benefits system to make it easier to access funds will provide a STG500 million ($ A994 million) boost to the welfare system, along with a STG500 million ($ A994 million) hardship fund.
– A STG3000 ($ A5965) cash grant to businesses eligible for small business rates relief.
“Taken together, the extraordinary measures I have set out today represent STG7 billion ($ A14 billion) to support the self-employed, businesses and vulnerable people,” Sunak said on Tuesday.
“To support the NHS and other public services, I am also setting aside a STG5 billion ($ A9.9 billion) emergency response fund – and will go further if necessary.”
Other plans represented another STG18 billion ($ A36 billion) of “additional fiscal loosening”, Sunak said.
“That means I am announcing today, in total, a STG30 billion ($ A60 billion) fiscal stimulus to support British people, British jobs and British businesses through this moment.”
Hours before the budget announcement, the Bank of England set the scene with an emergency interest rate cut from 0.75 per cent to 0.25 per cent.
“We will get through this – together. The British people may be worried, but they are not daunted,” Sunak said.
“We will protect our country and our people. We will rise to this challenge.”
The Chancellor said that without accounting for the impact of coronavirus, the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast growth of 1.1 per cent in 2020, 1.8 per cent in 2021 and then 1.5 per cent, 1.3 per cent, and 1.4 per cent in the following years.
Australian Associated Press