The chancellor has vowed to build a “fairer” country in the memory of those who have died during the coronavirus pandemic after he outlined his budget.
In an unprecedented Downing Street news conference following his announcement in the Commons, Rishi Sunak acknowledged the victims and said financial support will continue long after COVID restrictions end.
He said: “To the family and friends left behind, your loss – felt most acutely in the quietest of moments – must be overwhelming.
“But I promise you we will meet this moment with the passion and energy it demands, and we will build a fairer and more just country in their memory. Our recovery begins today.”
He added: “It is going to take us a long time to fully recover from the damage coronavirus has done to our economy.”
The chancellor earlier unveiled a further £65bn in support for employees and businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of a three-part plan to “protect jobs and livelihoods of the British people”.
But he warned “corrective action” would be needed to tackle the UK’s rising debt, with the government now committed to spending £407bn on support during the COVID crisis and borrowing at levels last seen in the 1940s.
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The budget included a freeze in income tax thresholds and a rise in corporation tax to help pay back the UK’s rising debts.
The key announcements from the chancellor included:
• An extension to the furlough scheme until the end of September and more support for the self-employed
• The £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit will continue for another six months
• The rate of corporation tax will rise to 25% in 2023, but with protections for smaller businesses
• A freeze of the income tax personal allowance from next year until 2026, with a freeze in the higher rate threshold over the same period
• A new “super deduction” scheme to allow companies to reduce their tax bill by 130% of the cost of new investments
• The UK economy is forecast to grow by 4% this year and by 7.3% in 2022 but, overall, is set to be 3% smaller than it would have been due to the COVID crisis, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
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