Chancellor warns of ‘significant disruption!’

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PCS trade unionists picket Downing Street during the Budget debate – they have been overpaying their pension contributions

TORY Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a £30bn Budget package to try to keep UK capitalism from being bankrupted and broken apart by the Coronavirus crisis.

He is abolishing business rates for many firms in England, extending sick pay and boosting NHS funding.

He warned of a ‘significant but temporary disruption’ to the UK economy but vowed: ‘We will get through this together.’

The Bank of England announced an unprecedented emergency cut in interest rates just ahead of the Budget on Wednesday, cutting the interest rate to 0.25% to try to prevent a very large number of companies running out of cash and going bust.

Sunak tried to assure MPs: ‘We are doing everything we can to keep this country and our people healthy and financially secure.’

The measures put in place to try to mitigate the effect of the coronavirus outbreak include:

Statutory sick pay for ‘all those who are advised to self-isolate’ even if they have not displayed symptoms

Business rates for shops, cinemas, restaurants and music venues in England with a rateable value below £51,000 suspended for a year

A £500m ‘hardship fund’ to be given to local authorities to help vulnerable people in their areas

‘Fiscal loosening’ of £18bn to support the economy this year, taking the total fiscal stimulus to £30bn

A ‘temporary coronavirus business interruption loan scheme’ for banks to offer loans of up to £1.2m to stop small and medium-sized businesses going under

The government will meet costs for businesses with fewer than 250 employees of providing statutory sick pay to those off work ‘due to coronavirus’

Those on in-work benefits who get ill will be able to ‘claim from day one instead of day eight’.

The number of coronavirus cases in the UK reached 456 on Wednesday, with a sixth person confirmed to have died after contracting the virus.

The chancellor said of the the NHS. It will get ‘whatever it needs, whatever it costs’ to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

This is after a 10-year Tory blitz to slash the NHS to pieces.

The chancellor said that without accounting for the impact of coronavirus, the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast growth of 1.1% in 2020, 1.8% in 2021 and then 1.5%, 1.3%, and 1.4% in the following years.

The so-called tampon tax will be abolished, and VAT on books, newspapers, magazines and academic journals will be scrapped from 1 December.

He announced more than £600bn, which the government does not have, but will have to borrow, for road, rail, housing and broadband projects over five years, aimed at delivering on the Conservatives’ election promise to boost economic growth outside of London and the south-east of England.

This would bring ‘net public investment to the highest levels in real terms since 1955’, said the chancellor – after over 10 years of savage Tory austerity.

He vowed to ‘change the whole mindset of government’, announcing plans for Treasury offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and a ‘new economic campus in the north, with over 750 staff from the Treasury’.

Sunak said he was providing £200m for local communities to build flood resilience and would double investment in flood defences.

Sunak will deliver another Budget in the Autumn.

The Budget comes in a week in which shares around the world – already hit by fears about coronavirus – suffered some of their biggest falls since the 2008 financial crisis.

Dubbed ‘Black Monday’, stock market indexes tumbled as a row between Russia and Saudi Arabia saw oil prices plunge, with declines in London wiping some £125bn off the value of major UK firms.