Budget 2021 is focussed on working, not dads

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled his 2021 Budget. The focus is on economic recovery rather than engaging with workplace changes brought about by coronavirus

Finance

 

Rishi Sunak’s second budget was focussed on economic recovery to follow the coronavirus crisis.

However there was precious little for working dads looking to do things differently. While there were plenty of measures aimed at keeping people in work there wasn’t much recognition for the stresses and sacrifices working dads have faced over the last 12 months.

Budget 2021 failed to mention childcare. Many childcare providers say they are on the brink of collapse following successive lockdowns. And childcare is seen as an essential part of the infrastructure needed to get parents back to work. Yet Budget 2021 offered nothing beyond the help available to all small businesses including business rate holidays.

Furlough extended

The furlough scheme is to be extended through to September, though government support will taper off across the summer. 

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Chief Economist, said: “Quite simply, extending the scheme will keep millions more in work and give businesses the chance to catch their breath as we carefully exit lockdown. The furlough scheme has been a stand-out success throughout the crisis. It’s common-sense to keep the scheme going while business resilience remains so fragile for some months yet. As we make progress into the summer, it’s right that businesses start contributing to be part of the scheme. Meanwhile it’s great to see more support for the newly self-employed, who have missed out over the last year.”

The Chancellor announced that the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will also be extended. And more people will be eligible for the scheme after it was opened to anyone who’d submitted a tax return by the most recent deadline that fell on Sunday. 

Home working

There were also no policies around home working. For example the amount folk can claim for heating and lighting was not altered. And while large firms will benefit from the ‘super deduction’ allowing them to reduce their tax bill by investing in kit there was no acknowledgment of the amount individuals might have spent to turn their home into an office.

Other announcements include:

  • a rise in the national living wage to £8.91 an hour from April
  • a ‘green industrial revolution’, including an infrastructure bank based in Leeds and a sovereign green bond
  • Income tax bands will be frozen
  • free training and digital skills support for eligible businesses
  • £19m for domestic violence programmes
  • a rise in corporation tax from 19% to 25% from April 2023, although companies with profits less than £50K will still pay 19%
  • visa reforms for ‘highly skilled migrants’ to attract talent in science and technology
  • pension flexibility
  • eight free ports, backed by new regional economic institutions

Uncertainty

The Institute for Employment Studies welcomed the furlough and SEISS extensions, but said that “not for the first time, the Chancellor is banking on a strong bounce back as we reopen”.  It said this didn’t happen last summer and it may not happen this summer, given the huge spare capacity in firms and continued uncertainty from the pandemic and Brexit.

It added: “The biggest risks that we face now are weak hiring, job insecurity and long-term unemployment.  We needed to see more today on measures to support jobs growth, reskilling and new job creation in areas like social care, the green economy and local services.”

‘Delight’ for self employed

IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) has also said it is “delighted” the Chancellor has heeded its calls to include freelancers who filed their first tax return in 2019/20 in the fourth round of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Derek Cribb, CEO of IPSE, said: “After the severe and disproportionate financial impact of the pandemic on the self-employed sector, this Budget contains much that will be welcome to struggling UK freelancers. We thank the Chancellor for listening to our calls for more support for new self-employed people and extending SEISS in-line with employee support. We are also grateful the Chancellor listened to our calls for a small profits rate of Corporation Tax, although we believe the threshold is too low.

“Overall, this Budget presents a hopeful vision for many freelancers – in the midst of dark times. We urge the Chancellor and government, however, not to forget still excluded groups such as limited company directors and look at new ways to support all parts of the self-employed sector.”





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