UK Budget 2020: The Highlights

On Wednesday 11 March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, delivered the UK budget 2020. This budget was highly anticipated, being the first budget of the new decade; the first budget under the new Conservative Party government, elected in December 2019; the first budget under Prime Minister Boris Johnson; and, of course, the first budget in close to 50 years delivered outside of the European Union. Many areas of the budget were welcomed by public sector buyers, including the emergency economic response to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic, an additional £5 billion funding for the NHS and measures to support SMEs.

Delta outlines the areas of Budget 2020 that will be most important for Delta customers, stakeholders and the wider public sector.

Coronavirus

Understandably, the unfolding Coronavirus pandemic was the most pressing subject of Budget 2020. The Chancellor has set aside £30 billion to support people, jobs, the NHS and the economy during this turbulent and unprecedented period in recent times.

Extra NHS funding: As part of its response, the Government has allocated an additional £5 billion for the NHS to cope with impending pressures. The Chancellor stressed that the NHS “will receive whatever it needs” throughout the outbreak, which may mean this figure could rise, if required.

Statutory sick pay: The Prime Minister announced prior to the budget that workers will be paid statutory sick pay (SSP) from day one of illness, instead of day four. SSP will also be available for all those advised to self-isolate, regardless of whether symptoms are present. Sick notes will be available by calling NHS 24 on ‘111’ and people with benefits will be able to claim more quickly and more easily.

Supporting SMEs: Smaller businesses with fewer than 250 employees will get statutory sick pay for all employees refunded in full for 14 days. Grants of up to £3000 are also available for 700,000 of the smallest businesses, which will be paid by local authorities. The small print will be important to read, in these instances, for both local authorities and claiming organisations. Finally, the Government has introduced a ‘Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme’ for banks to lend up to £1.2 billion to support SMEs during this period.

On top of this legislation, a new Hardship Fund of £500 million will be distributed to local authorities to directly support vulnerable people in their local area. All the measures introduced are intended to limit the temporary and sharp impact of Coronavirus across the UK – an impact which is already being felt in the economy, with the Bank of England cutting interest rates from 0.75% to 0.25%.

Infrastructure

Budget 2020 focused heavily on upcoming construction projects, including greener initiatives to encourage the use of electric vehicles, broadband coverage in remote areas of the UK and the building of roads and railways. The Chancellor expressed his confidence in the future of the UK infrastructure sector, stating “if we need it, we will build it.”

Green planning: The Government is investing £500 million to support the roll-out of electric cable car charging points, with the objective that no vehicle will be more than 30 minutes from a charging station. 40 million more trees will also be planted thanks to a £640 million investment, projected to restore 35,000 hectares of peatland over the next five years.

Roads and potholes: The Government will spend £27 billion building and developing over 4000 miles of strategic and local roads in England between 2020 and 2025. A new Pothole Fund has also been launched, allocating £2.5 billion to fill approximately 50 million potholes, which equates to £500 million per year over the life of the current parliament.

Rail: With high-profile railway projects making news headlines in recent months, rail was expected to form a larger part of the Chancellor’s budget than it did. However, there were talking points on the Manchester to Leeds leg for Northern Powerhouse Rail that will continue to be supported by the Government, and on other railway projects to level up accessible rail lines across the country.

Broadband and connectivity: £5 billion of funding has been dedicated to implementing gigabit-capable 4G broadband in remote places in the UK. This, together with investing £510 million into the shared rural mobile phone network, means 95% of the UK should be 4G-connected in the next five years.

Flooding: After the north of England was hit with severe flooding damage in recent storms, the Government has announced £200 million for immediate repairs to local flood resilience. This doubles the spend on flood defences to £5.2 billion.

Housing: The Chancellor has promised the largest investment in housing in a decade, with some £12 billion for affordable homes. The Housing Infrastructure Fund has also been given a further £1.1 billion, with the aim of delivering 70,000 new homes in high-demand areas. The launch of the £1 billion Grenfell Fund was particularly welcome; this will support the removal of dangerous combustible cladding from high-rise buildings, after previous funding was found to be too little.

Although there was little mention in Budget 2020 of specific infrastructure projects coming up, the general attitude of the infrastructure and construction sector is positive. The Chancellor’s announcements cement the argument that procurement is increasingly playing an instrumental role in shaping the UK.

Find out more information about what the UK budget could mean for your business on the government website.

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