Rishi Sunak’s Budget is expected to provide a lifeline for workers as the furlough scheme is extended to September while the universal credit £20 uplift could also be prolonged for six months.
Business rates holidays could also be extended to the end of June in a bid to keep businesses afloat through the pandemic, while a heavily trailed £5bn is expected for high streets.
Mr Sunak’s commitment to levelling up the country is set to continue with a further £4bn expected, and there will be £12bn in capital for an infrastructure bank, with a further £10bn in guarantees to attract private investment.
The Treasury is expected to hand out a further £1.65bn to give every adult their first COVID-19 vaccination by July, with possible extra cash for hospitals and for schools to get lockdown children back up to speed.
There will be more money too for apprenticeships and trainee schemes - £126m – in an effort to prevent young people suffering the economic after effects of COVID for years to come. And a £375m loans fund for business start-ups will be added to the £1.1bn already committed.
Homebuyers will also get a boost with a further extension of the stamp duty holiday and a state mortgage guarantee for first time buyers in an effort to stimulate the housing market.
The Chancellor’s announcement will see a package of measures that continue to see the country through the next phase of the pandemic, but he has already given stark warnings that his massive spending programme will have to be paid back at some point.
Speculation that it will start today has yet to be confirmed, but any tax rises are likely to start slowly. Mr Sunak could kick off the payback with a rise in corporation tax, or a freeze in income tax thresholds.
There will be cash for culture – and cricket – with £408m for museums, theatres and galleries and a ‘significant chunk’ of a £300m sports recovery package is expected to be handed to cricket. There is also some speculation that the VAT holiday for tourism will be extended – although the return of Mr Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme has yet to be confirmed.
The chancellor is also expected to announce plans to dish out grants of up to £250,000 to help communities take over their local pubs or sports clubs.