UK Budget: Chancellor Misses the Moment


Categories: Coronavirus (COVID-19), Economics, Inequality, Local Business, UK Government (Westminster)

Alyn Smith MP in the House of Commons

Stirling MP Alyn Smith has expressed disappointment at the latest UK Budget news, as the Chancellor Rishi Sunak fails to deliver for Stirling’s communities.

Whilst the extension to furlough and self-employed support is welcome, this is something the Scottish Government has repeatedly called for to give employees and employers greater certainty. The Chancellor refused to make the £20 uplift in Universal Credit permanent, and failed to reverse cuts to Scotland’s capital budget.

The Chancellor also failed to match the Scottish Government’s ambitious business rates relief. In Scotland, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes extended 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation businesses for 12 months, whereas the UK Chancellor has only extended 100% relief by 3 months, dropping to 66% for the 9 remaining months for businesses across England.

The Chancellor also failed to match the Scottish Government’s £500 ‘thank-you’ payment for NHS and social care staff, or even ensure the roll-out of this bonus in Scotland was tax-exempt – which he could have ensured with the stroke of a pen.

Whilst there has been some additional funding for Scotland, It’s feared the rhetoric surrounding the Budget could pave a way back to enhanced austerity. The OBR has highlighted a cut in departmental spending of £15 billion, threatening economic recovery and undermining the very public services which have supported citizens through the pandemic.

Stirling MP Alyn Smith said:

‘My priority for Stirling is jobs, jobs and jobs, and I’m disappointed the Chancellor has not delivered what I think is necessary as we move to hopefully the recovery phase of the pandemic. What Scotland’s households and businesses need from government is certainty and ambition – and I’m not sure they’re seeing that from London with this budget.

‘Business rates in particular cannot hold back the recovery of our high streets and local businesses. Contrasting the Scottish Government’s commitment to 100% business rates relief for 12 months with the UK Chancellor’s 3 months, it’s clear to see where businesses can turn to for support. 

‘I echo concerns expressed too by groups such as Excluded UK and Forgotten Ltd, that support for the self-employed still falls far short of what they need – a year into this crisis, it’s absolutely unforgivable.’

‘Whilst I appreciate there are difficult sums to balance, acting to choke off financial recovery will do long-term damage to Scotland’s economy. The last decade of austerity, the starving of public services and hammering of budgets, resulted in a weak UK recovery from the 2008 crash. The Chancellor must avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.’