The Covid-19 outbreak has taken a huge toll on the economy, causing significant disruption to businesses and workers. Since the outbreak, the Government has provided £160 billion of funding to deal with the immediate short-term challenges. This is one of the largest and most comprehensive plans anywhere in the world – providing significant protection for businesses, jobs, and livelihoods.
From the outset, the Government has said that it will do whatever it takes to protect people and businesses from the immediate economic impact of Covid-19. As part of this, more than 28,000 jobs in Swindon have been supported through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, allowing employers to put workers on furlough whilst the Government supports their wages. In addition to this, 3,700 claims have been made to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme in Swindon alone, with overall claims in Swindon valued at £22.6million.
On Wednesday, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, set out the second phase of the Government’s response to these challenges, with a focus on jobs: supporting people to find existing job opportunities, creating new jobs through investing in infrastructure, and protecting jobs by revitalising the hard-hit sectors upon which many jobs depend.
Among the biggest announcements was a cut in VAT for hospitality, accommodation and attraction businesses from 20% to 5%. The move is designed to support the sectors which have been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis. This is a bold move, which stands to benefit over 800 businesses in Swindon.
To help restaurants, pubs and cafes, the Chancellor also launched the Eat Out To Help Out Scheme. This scheme will entitle customers to a discount of up to 50 per cent on their meal, up to a maximum of £10 per person, on Mondays to Wednesdays in August. This scheme will provide a significant boost to the 152,915 food service businesses across the UK who have been severely impacted by COVID-19. We now all need to do our bit and support the fantastic restaurants, pubs and cafes we have in Swindon.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme cannot and should not go on forever, and plans were set out at the end of May to wind down furlough, flexibly and gradually, supporting businesses and people through to October. To help protect millions of jobs after the scheme ends, the Government will reward and incentivise employers who successfully bring back furloughed staff with a Jobs Retention Bonus Scheme: a £1,000 bonus to employers for every previously furloughed employee kept on continuously until January.
The Chancellor’s plan also included measures such as temporarily scrapping stamp duty on all homes under £500,000 to catalyse the housing market and boost confidence; along with a £3 billion green investment package to drive forward green home improvements, decarbonise buildings and create thousands of jobs.
In addition, the Government will introduce the most ambitious package for youth employment delivered by any government ever. This includes the new £2 billion Kickstart Scheme to create hundreds of thousands of new, decent and high-quality jobs for 16-24 year olds; a £1,000 bonus for employers to take on Trainees, and £2,000 to employers for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25.
This is an ambitious and decisive plan which will go a long way towards kickstarting the economy and facilitating our recovery.