Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, delivered his first Budget setting out the UK Government’s fiscal priorities. Speaking to MPs in the House of Commons, he pledged greater funding and resources for the NHS to help it manage the COVID-19 outbreak. This pledge was accompanied by a bold and comprehensive package worth £30bn designed to support businesses through what the Chancellor described as a “tough” but temporary period.
Setting out the Government’s economic response, the Chancellor outlined his three-point plan to manage the impact of the virus. The first part is to ensure the NHS is given “whatever resources it needs” to cope with the spread of COVID-19. The second part includes changes to Statutory Sick Pay, including those entitled to receive it, and a dedicated £500m hardship fund for local authorities. Following the introduction of these measures, Statutory Sick Pay will be available to anyone advised to self-isolate. The third and final part of the plan includes measures to support businesses.
For companies with fewer than 250 members of staff, the Chancellor confirmed the Government would temporarily meet the cost of an employee being off work, for a period of up to 14 days. Other measures announced include a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme worth over £1bn, grants for small business and a dedicated helpline for companies that require a deferral on their tax liabilities as a result of COVID-19.
HM Treasury has published specific guidance following the Budget which includes full details of the support available to businesses affected by COVID-19. British Marine would encourage its members to familiarise themselves with this guidance and will issue further updates as soon as we have more information on how those affected should go about accessing this support.
Speaking to MPs, the Chancellor then outlined changes to business rates. For the coming year, the business rates Retail Discount will be abolished and extended to businesses in the leisure and hospitality sectors, which under normal circumstances would be ineligible for this relief. This means that any eligible retail, leisure or hospitality business with a rateable value below £51,000 will, over the next financial year, pay no business rates. British Marine understands a formal review of business rates will take place in the autumn.
Much to the disappointment of British Marine, the Chancellor also announced that the subsidy on red diesel would be removed for most sectors, but would remain available for agricultural purposes, fishing and domestic heating. This follows speculations in different news outlets that the Chancellor was considering such a move. We understand the changes are not due to take affect for another two years and industry will be consulted on whether the entitlement to use red diesel and rebated biofuels is justified for any other users, including the continued use by ferries carrying paid passengers on the UK’s rivers and inland waterways, or public entertainment. Commercial boats on open waters, including ferries and fishing boats, will remain entitled to the Marine Voyages Relief so will not have to pay more for their fuel.
Commenting on the Budget, Lesley Robinson, CEO at British Marine, said: “It is particularly disappointing to see the subsidy on red diesel being removed across some sectors. This subsidy is of huge importance to our members in the recreational and small commercial boating sector which is heavily reliant on the use of red diesel to power recreational craft and many larger vessels.
“Our latest statistics show that participation in boating has increased over the last year and the UK’s leisure marine industry is thriving, all of which could be at risk if the Chancellor goes ahead with this decision and removes the subsidy for our sector.
“We understand that the Government will consult industry later this year and will be engaging closely with HM Treasury and HMRC officials to ensure our concerns and those of our members are fully represented and understood.”