When the Chancellor presented his budget a year ago neither he nor the country could know the extent of the financial support that would be needed to address the impact of the pandemic we faced.
Since then almost £300 billion has been spent helping people, jobs and businesses to survive this dreadful virus. This week, Rishi Sunak will present a budget setting out the Government’s plans for revenue and spending for 2021/22. Further support will be given for jobs and businesses through the furlough scheme and grants.
Together with my colleagues in the Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs I have been working to ensure that funding and projects for levelling up the North are a key part of our recovery. Securing investment in our transport network and our £25 million Towns Fund were important steps in my plan to help our local area move forward after Covid - but businesses and high streets will need a boost too.
Our high streets are a hugely important part of our everyday lives and they have been badly hit by a combination of online shopping and the pandemic. Some retail shops have been closed for many months and will need not only our customer support when they open, but a helping hand from Government. So, I have asked the Government to strongly consider supporting our shops, high streets and communities by reducing business rates nationally.
The Chancellor will extend the business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors and will also extend the VAT cut for hospitality and tourism, both of which are very welcome. My hope is that the rates burden overall will be cut to support all business before a comprehensive review of the system takes place. As we enter the final phase of the pandemic’s grip on our economy and society the success of our vaccination program holds out the promise of a return to some normality.
The vaccination programme has given all of us hope that we can return to a more normal life over the course of the next few months. Being able to see family and friends again and being able to meet for a meal and drinks will lift our spirits. It will also give much needed help to our high streets and shops as they re-open and I am confident that the economy will begin to bounce back strongly in the rest of 2021.