Budget 2021 – live: Sunak cuts flight and alcohol taxes as inflation set to reach 4%

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·57-min read
Budget 2021 – live: Sunak cuts flight and alcohol taxes as inflation set to reach 4%
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Rishi Sunak
    Rishi Sunak
    Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom (born 1980)

Rishi Sunak has said inflation is expected to hit 4 per cent in the year ahead, as he delivers his Budget speech. The Office for Budget Responsibility made the forecast at the same time that GDP will return to its pre-coronavirus level at the turn of the year, Mr Sunak said. Meanwhile, growth this year was revised up from 4 to 6.5 per cent.

The chancellor has also slashed duty on UK domestic flights, cancelled a fuel duty hike, and made sweeping changes to alcohol duty. Climate campaigners had previously urged Mr Sunak to put the environment at the heart of his Budget with the Cop26 summit just days away, but are likely to have been disappointed by the speech.

In her response, Labour’s Rachel Reeves accused the chancellor of living in a “parallel world” and failing to tackle the climate crisis. She said: “With no mention of climate in his conference speech, and the most passing of references today, we are burdened with a chancellor unwilling to meet the scale of the challenges we face.”

Read More

Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak’s key announcements at a glance

Budget: Rishi Sunak cuts taxes on domestic flights days before Cop26 climate conference starts

Budget: Inflation to rise to 4% but economic growth forecast up

Business rates cut by 50% for shops, pubs, hotels and restaurants

Key points

  • Taxes cut on domestic flights days before Cop26 starts

  • Sunak makes sweeping changes to alcohol duty

  • Inflation to hit 4 per cent in coming year, Sunak says

  • Per-pupil school funding to return to 2010 levels after a decade of austerity

  • Snap analysis from our political editor Andrew Woodcock...

  • ...and economics editor Anna Isaac

  • Sunak ‘in parallel universe’, says Labour in official response

07:34 , Chiara Giordano

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live UK politics coverage. We’ll be bringing you all the latest stories and headlines as chancellor Rishi Sunak delivers his budget in the House of Commons today.

Rishi Sunak urged to put climate at heart of budget announcement

07:36 , Chiara Giordano

Rishi Sunak has been urged to put the climate emergency at the heart of his Budget and end suspicions he is resisting the switch to net zero, with the Cop26 summit just days away.

The chancellor will today unveil measures to raise wages, rescue the NHS, boost skills and improve transport links in a three-year spending settlement setting the battleground for the next general election.

Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick has more details:

Rishi Sunak urged to end doubts and put climate crisis at heart of Budget

Chancellor to pledge Covid recovery ‘optimism’

07:40 , Chiara Giordano

Rishi Sunak will hail a "new age of optimism" in his budget amid predictions he will have more money than expected to spend due to a fast bounce-back from Covid.

The chancellor is set to strike an upbeat tone as he talks up building a "stronger economy of the future", with the promise of rising wages, cash for the NHS and investment into regional transport projects.

Mr Sunak's spending plans are likely to be bolstered by forecasts of faster growth than predicted in the spring as the economy roars back into life since the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, according to analysts.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the independent body whose forecasts guide Budget spending, is expected to up its growth outlook for 2021, cut its unemployment prediction and pencil in lower borrowing thanks to higher tax receipts.

Chancellor urged to use budget to help scots facing 'real cost of living crisis'

07:50 , Chiara Giordano

Scotland’s finance secretary has urged the chancellor to reinstate the £20 a week recently removed from Universal Credit.

Kate Forbes said Scots were facing a "real cost of living crisis" in a letter to Rishi Sunak as she called on him to use his keynote address in the Commons to "provide certainty to the wider public sector, boost the economy and support our most vulnerable at this challenging time".

Ms Forbes, who will set out the Scottish government's draft budget for next year in December, stressed ministers at Holyrood were "strongly opposed to any return to austerity".

The finance secretary appealed to the chancellor to re-think the government's recent decision to end the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit introduced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chancellor should ‘think carefully’ about pressures on those with modest incomes, says Robert Jenrick

08:01 , Chiara Giordano

Former cabinet minister Robert Jenrick has said chancellor Rishi Sunak will have to think carefully about the pressures on people on modest incomes when he delivers the Budget.

Mr Jenrick said that while there were "reasons for optimism", the chancellor still had to contend with rising inflation and a global supply chain shortage.

"I think the OBR forecasts are going to show the economy has grown substantially therefore we are borrowing much less as a country, and that gives the Chancellor more room to invest in the future of public services like the NHS," Mr Jenrick told Sky News.

"But I think he is also going to have to think carefully about people on the most modest incomes and how he can help them in what is undoubtedly still going to be a difficult period when we are seeing inflation rising, higher energy prices and so on."

Reducing Universal Credit taper rate would help 1.7 million families

08:22 , Chiara Giordano

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 5.5 million families were affected by the £20 per week universal credit cut, our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports.

Reducing the taper rate - as speculated - will help 1.7 million families (those in work).

Labour calls on chancellor to set out urgent plan to support families through winter

08:40 , Chiara Giordano

Labour has called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to set out an immediate plan to support families through the winter when he delivers his Budget.

Shadow Treasury chief secretary Bridget Phillipson said many low-income families have been hit hard by the ending of the temporary £20-a-week increase in Universal Credit.

"It is the biggest cut to social security we have seen since the welfare state was created," she told Sky News.

"For many families it is all they have ever known. A lot of families started receiving Universal Credit because of the pandemic. It is a massive hit to families' incomes.

"We want to see immediate action to deal with the cost-of-living crisis facing families as we are entering a pretty tough winter for lots of people, but also businesses too.

"We have had a lot of smoke and mirrors going into this Budget, and it's all very good and well the government promising things, but if that doesn't lead to people feeling that extra support in their pocket, that will be the real test for the government."

Rishi Sunak planning to soften blow of Universal Credit cuts with ‘taper rate’ tweak

08:51 , Chiara Giordano

Rishi Sunak is planning to soften the blow of his cuts to Universal Credit by tweaking the benefits system, according to reports.

The chancellor is expected to change the so-called "taper rate" for claimants in work – a move which would let them keep more of their wages.

But the £20-a-week cut is still expected to go ahead – and charities warn that tweaking the taper will not help the poorest.

Our policy correspondent Jon Stone explains more in this article:

Rishi Sunak planning to soften blow of Universal Credit cuts with ‘taper rate’ tweak

Everything we know so far about the chancellor’s spending plans

09:05 , Chiara Giordano

Our economics editor Anna Isaac has put together this handy guide to the chancellor’s headline pledges so far, which includes a sense of what they may mean in practice:

Budget 2021: Everything we know so far

Chancellor set to cut air passenger duty tax on some domestic flights

09:26 , Chiara Giordano

The chancellor is expected to cut Air Passenger Duty (APD) for some domestic flights in today’s Budget speech.

The Independent understands Rishi Sunak will reduce the flat-rate tax on departures between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to zero – cutting the cost of a domestic return flight connecting England, Wales or Scotland with the airports of Belfast or City of Derry by £26.

Our travel correspondent Simon Calder has the full details:

Chancellor set to cut APD tax on some domestic flights in today’s Budget announcement

Sunak has ‘£30bn’ extra to spend in Budget

10:25 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak has an extra £30bn to spend when he sets out his Budget before parliament this afternoon, it has been reported.

According to The Times, the Office for Budget responsibility - the independent body whose forecasts guide Budget - is expected to up its growth outlook for 2021, cut its unemployment prediction and pencil in lower borrowing thanks to higher tax receipts.

Britain’s economy has bounced back from Covid lockdowns more quickly than economists had forecast, giving the chancellor more wriggle room for spending.

Its understood he will use the surplus cash to invest in public services.

Watch: Priti Patel faces questions from MPs

10:34 , Matt Mathers

Chancellor planning cut to beer and alcohol duty?

10:57 , Matt Mathers

The Treasury has put out a deluge of Budget spending plans in recent days, leaving observers wondering whether Sunak will have anything of substance left to announce on the big day.

Could a cut to beer and other alcohol duties be the last rabbit out of the chancellor’s hat as he addresses MPs in the Commons?

The Telegraph’s political editor Ben Riley reckons it might be. He says Sunak and the PM are off to a brewery for a photo op later today...

When will the minimum wage go up?

11:07 , Matt Mathers

Sunak earlier this week announced that workers on the minimum wage will get a boost to their pay.

Those aged 21 to 22 will see an 83p rise from the present £8.36 to £9.18, those aged 18-20 will earn 27p per hour more, taking them from £6.56 to £6.83, and those aged 16-17 will receive 19p more, a boost from £4.62 to £4.81.

But when will the changes kick in? My colleague Joe Sommerlad reports:

Joe Sommerlad | The Independent

Budget tipples

11:20 , Matt Mathers

Archaic parliamentary rules mean that the chancellor is allowed an alcohol drink when delivering the Budget in the Commons.

In years gone by Kenneth Clarke, the Tory MP and former chancellor, sipped a glass of whisky at the dispatch box.

Before him Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson opted for gin and tonic as his poison of choice while Hugh Dalton, the former Labour bean counter, went for a rum and coke.

However, more recently austere chancellors such as Gordon Brown and Philip Hammond kept it safe with a hydrating glass of water.

That trend is likely to continue later as Sunak, a teetotaller, is more fond of a can of Sprite than a spritz.

The chancellor, a self-professed sugar addict, has previously expressed his undying love for coke - the soft-drink kind of course.

Perhaps he made a conscious decision to switch to the colourless fizz after videos of him telling children he is a “coke addict” went viral online.

Top Sunak aide skips Budget photo because he is agoraphobic

11:31 , Matt Mathers

The chief secretary to the Treasury has announced he will not feature in the traditional pre-Budget photograph with the chancellor because he is agoraphobic.

Simon Clarke tweeted that his condition "prevents me being comfortable in some open spaces" and so as a result would not take part in the shots outside No 11 Downing Street.

The Treasury ministerial team is ritually photographed together outside the famous black door while the Chancellor holds up their Budget red box before the Commons fiscal speech.

The photograph has on occasion, including in March before Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spring speech, been taken inside Downing Street.

But Mr Clarke, tweeting an indoor photo of him alongside Mr Sunak on Wednesday, explained he would be absent from the autumn photo as it is due to be posed in the street.

Full report on the way.

Do as I say...not as I do: Masks made mandatory in parliament for staff – but not for ‘above the rules’ MPs

11:41 , Matt Mathers

Masks have been made mandatory again for staff in parliament except MPs – sparking accusations that politicians are behaving as if they are “above the rules”.

My colleague Adam Forrest reports:

Masks made mandatory again for parliamentary staff – but not for MPs

Strong public services, infrastructure and skills top priorities in Budget

11:51 , Matt Mathers

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told Cabinet ministers the "three building blocks" of the Budget were "strong public services, infrastructure innovation and skills".

A Downing Street spokesman said the Chancellor also pledged to use post-Brexit freedoms to deviate from EU rules to "deliver substantive reform of our tax system".

The spokesman said: "The Chancellor outlined his plans for the Budget and Spending Review that will deliver a stronger economy for the British people, promoting high skills, high productivity and higher wages.

Sunak leaving 11 Downing Street, London before delivering his Budget to the House of Commons (PA)
Sunak leaving 11 Downing Street, London before delivering his Budget to the House of Commons (PA)

"He also set out how strong public services, infrastructure innovation and skills, and support for working families were the three building blocks of this Budget, emphasising that there would be strong investment in all three including £6 billion to help clear NHS backlogs and £3 billion investment in skills.

"The Chancellor described how the levelling up agenda would be the golden thread that runs through this Spending Review and Budget, delivering on our promises to spread opportunity across our country.

"He stated that this Budget prepares for a new economy post-Covid and is a Budget that will take the opportunities leaving the EU has afforded us to deliver substantive reform of our tax system. "

Watch: Starmer and PM face off at PMQ's

11:58 , Matt Mathers

Prime minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Keir Starmer are facing off at PMQ’s before the Budget.

Follow all the action below:

Starmer: Budget must take pressure of working people

12:01 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak’s Budget must include measures to “take pressure of working people”, Keir Starmer has said.

In a tweet, the Labour leader added: “Labour would grow our economy, with our plan to buy, make and sell more in Britain, and our Climate Investment Pledge to create the jobs of the future.”

Starmer tests positive for Covid and will miss PMQ’s and Budget

12:05 , Matt Mathers

Sir Keir Starmer has tested positive for Covid-19 and will not be doing Prime Minister’s Questions or responding to the Budget, Labour has said.

More details as we have them:

Keir Starmer tests positive for Covid

PMQ’s: World has not delivered on climate, Miliband tells Johnson

12:14 , Matt Mathers

The world has not delivered on climate change, Ed Miliband tells Johnson, as he calls on the government to be more ambitious in reducing emissions.

His comments come after a UN report said nations are falling far short of what’s needed to keep the global temperature under 1.5C this century.

Johnson concedes the Cop26 climate summit is “in the balance”.

PMQs: World has not delivered on climate, Miliband tells Johnson

12:14 , Matt Mathers

The world has not delivered on climate change, Ed Miliband tells Johnson, as he calls on the government to be more ambitious in reducing emissions.

His comments come after a UN report said nations are falling far short of what’s needed to keep the global temperature under 1.5C this century.

Johnson concedes the Cop26 climate summit is “in the balance” after a number of world leaders signalled they won’t travel to Glasgow.

Watch: Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband stands in for Starmer at PMQs

12:20 , Matt Mathers

Deputy speaker attacks “pre-briefing” of Budget plans

12:34 , Jon Sharman

Dame Eleanor Laing, the deputy speaker, has told MPs she shares the concerns of many of them, about the way so many elements of Rishi Sunak’s Budget have been parcelled out to the media.

“All ministers know important policy announcements should be made first to parliament,” she says.

“We’re just talking about courtesy to this house,” Dame Eleanor adds.

And so...

12:35 , Jon Sharman

...it begins.

Rishi Sunak says he has “listened very carefully” to what Dame Eleanor Laing has said about pre-briefing the media on Budget plans.

Budget is not a post-Covid plan, says chancellor

12:38 , Jon Sharman

Rishi Sunak says his Budget will be the “foundation” of a stronger economic future for the UK, rather than a fully post-Covid-19 plan. There are “tough months ahead”, he warns.

OBR estimates suggest economy will recover quicker, says Sunak

12:45

The Office of Budget Responsibility’s forecast for economic growth has gone up from 4 to 6.5 per cent, Rishi Sunak says.

Mr Sunak said the government’s jobs plan was working.

However, the OBR also said inflation would rise to 4 per cent, which the chancellor said was due to global factors. Britons can have confidence the government “at home” will work to mitigate this, he said.

Sunak announces new fiscal charter – and MPs will be forced to vote on it

12:49 , Jon Sharman

Rishi Sunak has announced the introduction of a new fiscal charter for the UK which he said would keep spending and borrowing in check.

Two new rules will keep ministers disciplined, the chancellor said.

He told MPs: “First, underlying public sector net debt, excluding the impact of the Bank of England, must, as a percentage of GDP, be falling.

“Second, in normal times the state should only borrow to invest in our future growth and prosperity. Everyday spending must be paid through taxation.

“Both rules must be met by the third year of every forecast period, giving us the flexibility to respond to crises while credibly keeping our public finances under control.”

More detail on inflation from our economics editor, Anna Isaac

12:51 , Jon Sharman

The spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, which offers forecasts on the UK economy that determine how much the chancellor can spend, believes that inflation will average 4 per cent in the year ahead, writes Anna Isaac.

The problems of damaged supply chains and higher energy costs are not unique the UK, Rishi Sunak said, noting that there are global problems with price growth that are troubling the world’s finance ministers.

Mr Sunak put more pressure on the central bank, the Bank of England, today too. He said that he had written to remind them of their mandate to keep inflation close to 2 per cent ahead of their next meeting to discuss whether to raise their key interest rate on November 4.

The OBR expects GDP to return to its pre-Covid level at the turn of the year, Mr Sunak said. Growth this year is revised up from 4 to 6.5 per cent.

One of the most important numbers of the day: the OBR has cut the level of scarring – the longer-term loss of growth – that it expects the UK to suffer because of the Covid-19 pandemic has been revised down from 3 per cent to 2 per cent. This will give more room for long term borrowing as its affordability is often based on the ratio of borrowing levels to GDP.

Read more in our full story:

UK inflation to rise to 4% but economic growth forecast up

Levelling up plans get a laugh

12:59 , Jon Sharman

“We are so committed to levelling up, we are even levelling up the opposition front bench,” Rishi Sunak jokes as he announces funds destined for Labour constituencies including Doncaster and west Leeds.

Tory MPs behind him cheer and wave their hands to encourage louder responses from their Labour counterparts.

More money to support children and schools

13:03 , Jon Sharman

Rishi Sunak has now announced more funding for children, telling the Commons the government’s “start for life” fund would total £300m to offer "high-quality parenting programmes, tailored services to help with perinatal mental health, and ... funding to create a network of family hubs”.

He added: "To improve the quality of childcare, we're going to pay providers more, with today's Spending Review providing an extra £170m by 2024-25."

Mr Sunak said the Spending Review would also funnel some £4.7bn to schools by 2024-25.

He said: "Combined with the ambitious plans we announced at Spending Review 2019, this will restore per-pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms, equivalent to a cash increase for every pupil of more than £1,500.

"And for children with special educational needs and disabilities we're more than tripling the amount we invest to create 30,000 new school places."

Sunak confirms cladding fund

13:06 , Jon Sharman

Property developers will be hit by a new levy to help remove unsafe cladding from apartment buildings, Rishi Sunak has said.

Firms will be taxed at a rate of 4 per cent if they have profits over £25m, in order to create a £5bn pot for renovation.

Economy will return to pre-Covid levels at the turn of year, Sunak says

13:06 , Jon Sharman

Sunak announces funds to counteract courts backlog

13:12 , Jon Sharman

The chancellor said he will provide an extra £2.2bn for courts, prisons and probation services, including £500,000 to reduce the courts backlogs.

Courts around the country are suffering extremely long delays – sometimes years – in arranging trials and getting evidence in order following years of cuts to the justice system.

You can read more about this in our recent story:

£560m fund to improve basic maths skills

13:13 , Jon Sharman

Rishi Sunak has announced a new £560m fund called “Multiply” to help people better their maths skills. He has described it as part of his “real plan for growth”.

The problem of rising prices, explained

13:15 , Anna Isaac

The problem of rising prices, arguably the most painful problem for the chancellor to face, was swiftly batted away to Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, writes Anna Isaac.

It is no small matter, with the OBR forecasting inflation will run at an average of 4 per cent next year.

Rishi Sunak made a point of saying he had written to the central bank to remind them of their mandate to keep price growth in check, by containing inflation at 2 per cent.

The timing is sensitive. The Bank’s policymakers are set to meet on November 4, with markets on tenterhooks about whether it will raise its key interest rate.

If putting additional pressure on the Bank was not a clear enough signal that price growth cannot be fixed by Number 11, Mr Sunak also placed great emphasis on how higher costs are also a global problem.

One which the chancellor discusses on calls with his counterparts around the world. It is the world economy adjusting to the supply chain disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, not a UK specific problem, the chancellor said.

But that will not get rid of political pressures. While Mr Sunak has committed to ending the public sector pay freeze, the figure that is landed on will be informed by this new, higher inflation forecast. It will keep the squeeze on families, and it will also eat into the increase in the National Living Wage.

Mr Bailey and his colleagues might be able to use a rate rise to contain inflation, but that will mean higher costs for borrowers.

In short, it is a long-term bind for the chancellor that even with a sunnier economic outlook, he cannot afford to ignore.

Sunak slashes duty on domestic flights

13:18 , Jon Sharman

Rishi Sunak has announced a cut in duty on flights between UK airports which will mean “9 million people will see their duty halved”.

“It will bring people together across the United Kingdom,” the chancellor told MPs.

Meanwhile, in a bid to cut carbon emissions which, Mr Sunak said, came largely from international flights, levies on super-long-haul trips would rise. This would hit less than 5 per cent of travellers but those who flew furthest would pay more, the chancellor said.

More masks inside the Commons as Sunak delivers speech

13:19 , Jon Sharman

Most of the Conservative front bench, including the PM, justice secretary and foreign secretary, are wearing face masks during the Budget speech (PA)
Most of the Conservative front bench, including the PM, justice secretary and foreign secretary, are wearing face masks during the Budget speech (PA)

Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak boasts per pupil funding will ‘return to 2010 levels’

13:20 , Jon Sharman

Rishi Sunak has announced per pupil school funding will return “2010 levels” in real terms by 2024-25 — after more than a decade of Conservative austerity, writes Ashley Cowburn.

Unveiling the Budget, Mr Sunak said an extra £4.7 billion by 2024-25, “which combined with the ambitious plans announced at the spending review of 2019 will restore per pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms”.

Rishi Sunak boasts per pupil funding will ‘return to 2010 levels’

Alcohol duty changes

13:28 , Jon Sharman

Rishi Sunak is announcing changes to alcohol duty.

He says “the most radical simplification of alcohol duties for more than 150 years” is possible because of Brexit.

There are five points in the plan, which the chancellor said would be healthier for Britain.

- simplify system by cutting number of main duty rates from 15 options to six. “commonsense” principle of stronger drink being taxed at a higher rate

- ‘small innovative craft producers’ will get new relief, including cider-makers, making drinks under 8.5 per cent ABV

- sparkling wines to lose 28 per cent duty premium, bringing them in line with still wines. English and Welsh wines to get a boost, Sunak claims

- support for pubs with a “draught relief” of 5 per cent meaning boozers serving drinks from kegs will claw back £100m a year

- planned increase in duty on scotch, wine, cider and beer cancelled

IFS reaction to school funding pledge

13:31 , Jon Sharman

Paul Johnson, the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, is unimpressed by Rishi Sunak’s pupil funding pledge.

Rishi Sunak cuts taxes on domestic flights days before Cop26 climate conference starts

13:33 , Jon Sharman

The government will cut taxes on domestic flights to make them cheaper, Rishi Sunak has announced.

In a budget just days before the UK hosts the Cop26 UK climate conference in Glasgow the chancellor said he wanted to make it cheaper to fly internally to "cut the cost of living".

Mr Sunak's policy is the polar opposite of some other European countries – which have increasingly moved to restrict domestic flights where rail alternatives available, writes Jon Stone.

Rishi Sunak cuts taxes on domestic flights days before Cop26 climate summit

Snap analysis from our political editor

13:36 , Jon Sharman

See what our political editor Andrew Woodcock has to say about the new Budget

  • Rishi Sunak’s freeze on fuel duties has become a permanent fixture of Conservative budgets, with every increase since 2010 cancelled by Tory chancellors. It means a massive saving for drivers over the course of the decade, but scarcely fits with Boris Johnson’s green ambitions for the Cop26 climate change summit which starts in Glasgow on Sunday.

  • The most eye-catching element of a wholesale reform of alcohol duties announced by Rishi Sunak is probably the cut in taxes on sparkling wine. The chancellor made no mention of the champagne traditionally quaffed by the rich, but concentrated instead on the prosecco which has become popular across the drinking classes over recent years, as well as on English sparkling wine. With a clear eye on the risk of negative headlines, he said that fizz is “no longer the preserve of the wealthy elite”.

  • There was a big cheer from Tory benches for announcement of one-year 50-per-cent cut in business rates for leisure, hospitality and retail businesses to help them recover from the pandemic. The total £7bn cut in business rates will be welcomed by businesses, but falls well short of Labour's promise to abolish them altogether.

  • Rishi Sunak has laid down a marker for a pre-election tax "sweetener" for voters, announcing that – while he is reluctantly forced to raise taxes now – her wants them to be going back down again by the end of the parliament. His £2bn boost for universal credit falls well short of the £6bn he slashed from benefits by abolishing the £20 a week uplift last month.

Economists relieved by smaller-than-feared impact of Covid-19

13:38 , Anna Isaac

The quick take from economists is that it is a matter of relief, if not celebration that the UK economy has suffered less long-term damage than feared, according to spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility.

This means that the UK will only lose 2 per cent of GDP as a result of the pandemic, compared to what would have been the case without the onset of Covid-19. It had previously expected scarring of 3 per cent in March, writes Anna Isaac.

It gives Rishi Sunak a great deal more room for manoeuvre, and we’re seeing that with the budget today. It is a bigger event than some economists had expected.

“Don't forget the 2008/09 crisis hit the economy by 10% permanently. If we get away with 2%, we should be relieved,” said the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson on Twitter.

It’s also allowed the chancellor to offer some pleasing news for backbenchers who were uncomfortable with the tax hikes the introduced ahead of the tory party conference to help pay for health and social care.

“Conservative MPs will love the 50% business rates discount for retail and hospitality businesses - something to take home to the local high street,” said Rupert Harrison.

Mr Harrison is now a portfolio manager at asset manager BlackRock, but formally chief secretary to the Treasury under chief of staff to ex-chancellor, George Osborne.

Sunak heckled over domestic flight duty cut

13:38 , Jon Sharman

Angus Robertson removes his mask to heckle (left) after domestic flights announcement (Parliament TV)
Angus Robertson removes his mask to heckle (left) after domestic flights announcement (Parliament TV)

Business rates cut by 50% for shops, pubs, hotels and restaurants

13:39 , Jon Sharman

Hospitality, retail and leisure firms will get a 50 per cent business rates discount for a year to help them through the continuing damage caused by the pandemic, writes Ben Chapman.

In his Budget speech, the chancellor said any eligible businesses, including shops, pubs and leisure centres, will see the tax on their premises slashed for a year, up to a value of £110,000

However, Rishi Sunak stopped short of granting business groups their wish of overhauling the widely disliked tax.

And so...

13:40 , Jon Sharman

...it’s over. The Budget speech has ended to raucous cheers from Conservative MPs.

Ask a tax expert anything about the Budget announcement

13:41 , Jon Sharman

The Independent is running an ask-me-anything events tomorrow with a tax expert, who will answer your questions about the Budget announcement.

Find out more below:

Ask a tax expert anything about the Budget announcement

Sunak ‘in parallel universe’, says Labour

13:45 , Jon Sharman and Anna Isaac

 (Parliament TV)
(Parliament TV)

Ordinary people will think Rishi Sunak is living in a “parallel universe”, his opposite number Rachel Reeves has said. Ms Reeves is responding to the Budget speech because Keir Starmer is isolating with Covid-19.

The shadow chancellor accused Mr Sunak of arrogance in trumpeting his £2bn universal credit boost, after having taken £6bn away from claimants by ending the £20-a-week uplift.

Ms Reeves also attacked the level of taxes on members of the public, and what she said was the poor return on investment they are getting.

The chancellor will cut the taper, the current 63p in every £1 that a worker on universal credit loses of their benefits for earnings above a set allowance.

“To make sure work pays ... I have decided to cut this rate, not by 1 per cent, not by 2 per cent but by 8 per cent,” said Mr Sunak.

The new 55 per cent is in line with the rate originally planned for when the benefit was going to be introduced. It will be introduced “within weeks” and no later than 1 December, he said

By cutting the taper, and by raising the allowance benefit recipients are allowed to earn before it kicks in, it will be a significant boost. Including the increase in the national living wage, means a substantial difference for those on universal credit who are in work.

Yet there are many who receive the benefit, as much as one in five by the government’s own estimates, who are unable to work. They will still feel the loss of the £20 per week uplift which ended on 6 October. They also tend to be the poorest among those who receive universal credit.

Full story: Universal credit claimants to gain £1,000 a year as ‘taper rate’ cut by 8 per cent, Sunak announces

13:49 , Jon Sharman

Many universal credit claimants will keep £1,000 a year more of their benefits after the Budget included an 8 per cent cut in the harsh ‘taper rate’.

Rishi Sunak went further than expected by slashing the rate – the amount of every £1 lost when someone takes on work – from 63 per cent to 55 per cent, writes Rob Merrick.

The move offers some relief to many of the millions of people hit by the controversial £20-a-week cut in universal credit, introduced this week.

Universal credit claimants to gain £1,000 a year as ‘taper rate’ cut by 8%

Climate campaigners disappointed by Sunak’s speech

13:53 , Jon Sharman

Climate campaigners are disappointed by Rishi Sunak’s Budget speech, in which he slashed duty on domestic UK flights and cancelled a planned hike in fuel taxes.

School union warns Sunak’s investment ‘falls a long way short'

13:56 , Jon Sharman

A headteachers’ union has reacted with caution to Rishi Sunak’s pledge to restore schools funding to 2010 levels, following years of successive cuts.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said in a statement: “We fear this Budget falls a long way short of what is needed in terms of investment in education, but recognise that there is at least some progress in the right direction.

“There is more investment in early years, in schools and in 16-19 education, and we welcome these commitments. But there is long-term systemic under-funding in all these sectors, and significant investment is needed to repair the damage done by a decade of austerity.

“We hear the chancellor’s claim that the investment in schools will restore per pupil funding to 2010 levels. However, we will need to see the detail of the overall spending plans and commitments before knowing the full implications.

“Even in the best-case analysis this still represents no growth in school funding for 15 years, and this commitment does not address the stark reality in 16-19 education where the learner rate is far too low. What we do know is that school and college budgets are very thinly stretched and the financial situation continues to be extremely difficult.”

Snap analysis from our economics editor

13:57 , Anna Isaac

This was a much bigger budget than most politicians or economists had expected, writes Anna Isaac.

The chancellor sought to juggle a host of pressure from his own backbenches and his cabinet colleagues.

Overall, it is certainly no return to austerity. He also tried to catch Labour off-guard with detail on areas like business rates, and more generosity than predicted on universal credit changes for workers on the benefit.

The reason he was able to spend: the economy has recovered more rapidly, and to a greater extent, than originally expected. And, of course, he had already raised taxes sharply. This is a high tax chancellor.

As the spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility notes: “The tax rises announced in this Budget increase the tax burden from 34.0 to 35.0 per cent of GDP in 2025-26, its highest level since Roy Jenkins was Chancellor in the late 1960s”.

But while some of the changes to universal credit will be very welcome for in-work recipients, there is a blunt reality that cannot be ignored. The very poorest, most often those on benefits who are unable to work, will see none of the giveaways that the chancellor lauded for making work pay.

There is also an awkward disconnect between slashing air passenger duty for domestic flights, just ahead of hosting a crucial climate conference, Cop26, in Glasgow. That is true of not raising fuel duty, too, a clear tax on carbon.

It might be popular with the party faithful, but many may feel it falls short for the very poorest and for the planet.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Therese Coffey among unmasked on Tory frontbench during Budget

13:58 , Jon Sharman

Members of the government’s frontbench were split over whether a face mask should be worn in the Commons as they gathered to hear the chancellor deliver the Budget.

While Boris Johnson did not wear a face mask during Prime Minister’s Questions earlier on Wednesday, he put one on alongside other Cabinet members as Rishi Sunak stood at the despatch box.

Notable exceptions deciding not to wear a face mask in the Commons were Jacob Rees-Mogg and work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey, writes Katy Clifton.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Therese Coffey among unmasked on Tory frontbench during Budget

Labour attacks Sunak on climate

14:02 , Jon Sharman

Labour’s Rachel Reeves has attacked Rishi Sunak’s Budget for failing to focus on the climate emergency, which she says, citing the OBR, is a huge potential risk for the public debt.

“The only way to be a prudent and responsible chancellor is to be a green chancellor,” she said – recycling a line she used on the weekend politics programmes.

Ms Reeves added: “To invest in the transition to a zero-carbon economy, and give British businesses a headstart in the industries of the future.

“But with no mention of climate in his conference speech, and the most passing of references today, we are burdened with a chancellor unwilling to meet the scale of the challenges we face.

“Homeowners are left to face the cost of insulation on their own. Industries like steel hydrogen are in a global race without the support that they need.

“And the chancellor today has promoted domestic flights over high-speed rail in the week before Cop26.”

Scottish National Party reacts to domestic flights announcement

14:03 , Jon Sharman

Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak announces cut to alcohol tax

14:05 , Jon Sharman

Reaction from cities lobby group to wage hike

14:11 , Jon Sharman

Rishi Sunak’s hike to the national living wage might help Boris Johnson win the next election but ministers need to do more to actually create jobs that will pay it, a think-tank has said.

Andrew Carter, head of the Centre for Cities, said in a statement: “Raising the national living wage is a quick win for the levelling up agenda and will have the biggest impact in the places that are crucial to the prime minister winning the next election. Four of the five places where the most people will benefit are in the north.

“While a pay increase is good news for people struggling with the cost of living crisis, it does not address the reasons why they live on low pay in the first place: a lack of well-paid jobs in their local area.

“We’ve seen today the beginnings of a plan focused on skills, innovation and infrastructure to address this, but turning it from rhetoric to reality will depend on ministers' willingness to work with metro mayors and councils on delivering it. I am now looking to the delayed levelling up white paper to set out how this will happen.”

Sunak has scored an own goal with speech that ‘extended age of fossil fuels’, warns progressive think-tank

14:16 , Jon Sharman

More criticism of Rishi Sunak’s climate credentials following his Budget speech. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a left-leaning think tank, has accused the chancellor of using his speech “to extend the ages of fossil fuels”.

Luke Murphy, from the IPPR, said in a statement: “Cutting air passenger duty was the most significant new policy mentioned in the budget speech today which will have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions – and it will increase them.

“Rishi Sunak talked for longer about beer duty, than our duty to future generations to address the climate and nature crises.

“The truth is, this climate-void, fossil-fuel heavy budget failed to deliver the necessary £30bn of investment needed each year to meet our climate and nature targets.

“This budget was an own goal for a government that should be leading the world, ahead of the all-important global climate summit COP26, into a new low carbon age.”

Meanwhile, James Thornton, chief executive of ClientEarth, said better global leadership on climate “begins at home”.

He added: “The announcement on fuel and domestic flight duties goes against everything we know about climate change and the UK has missed a crucial chance to lead by example. It makes it difficult to showcase a ‘new age of optimism’ for Global Britain, when our domestic sustainability agenda fails to deliver.”

Chancellor’s spending pledges described as ‘sticking plaster’ on wounds formed over a decade of cutbacks

14:20 , Jon Sharman

Rishi Sunak’s spending promises are welcome but are merely “sticking plasters on a state that has been left creaking by a decade of cuts”, according to a left-wing think-tank.

The Fabian Society called the Budget “a necessary rescue package” even though it sounded generous.

Luke Raikes, the group’s research director, said in a statement: “The chancellor set the country up for a return to George Osborne's short-termism [with his new fiscal charter].

“Any government must ensure prudent investment and get value for taxpayers' money. But these rules could see counterproductive public spending decisions and lead to a deepening of the very problems the chancellor is now trying desperately to repair. The chancellor risks knowing the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.

“The chancellor announced a long list of ‘levelling up’ projects across the country, which may sound like good news, but we’ve heard this all before. Two years into this government and the list of broken promises is already racking up – and on top of the promises made by his Conservative predecessors.

“People have become sadly used to overblown promises from the dispatch box that never come good on the ground.”

Sunak announces one-year 50 per-cent cut in business rates

14:21 , Jon Sharman

Miliband unimpressed by lack of focus on climate by Sunak

14:33 , Jon Sharman

Ed Miliband has hit out at Rishi Sunak’s Budget speech for being light on climate action, echoing his colleague Rachel Reeves and eco-campaigners.

People crossing Channel ‘not genuine asylum seekers’ and just want to stay in hotels, Priti Patel says

14:40 , Jon Sharman

Priti Patel has been accused of “peddling dangerous myths” after claiming that people crossing the Channel are not genuine asylum seekers but are making the perilous journey because they want to live in UK hotels, writes May Bulman.

Speaking to MPs on Wednesday, the home secretary said that single men arriving via small boats were “economic migrants” and that the Home Office’s use of hotels as asylum accommodation had acted as a “pull factor” for people to enter Britain via unauthorised means.

People crossing Channel because they want to stay in UK hotels, Priti Patel claims

Northern Powerhouse Partnership says Sunak’s ‘levelling-up’ fund isn’t enough

14:50 , Jon Sharman

Rishi Sunak’s “levelling-up” funding for the north of England is not sufficient to bridge the regional divide with the south, according to the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

Even though the cash amounts to some £500m, “each bid is only large enough in scale to address specific local challenges”, the body said.

It added: “The wider solution is to devolve more of central budgets to towns and cities with metro mayors, allowing them to adapt spending to their individual needs.”

However, the partnership praised the fund for building on “existing well-regarded regeneration plans”.

Priti Patel says she wants to force migrant boats back to France ‘to save lives’

14:59 , Jon Sharman

Priti Patel has said she wants to force boats carrying asylum seekers back to France to “save lives”, writes Lizzie Dearden.

The home secretary insisted that planned operations by the Border Force in the English Channel would not risk lives and cause people to drown.

During an evidence session held by the Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee, she said there had been “extensive work” on legal and practical issues around push-backs.

Priti Patel says she wants to force migrant boats back to France ‘to save lives’

Budget 2021 summary: Rishi Sunak’s key announcements at a glance

15:18 , Jon Sharman

What has Rishi Sunak offered in his Autumn Budget and Spending Review? The Independent takes a look at the key announcements, writes Adam Forrest.

Rishi Sunak’s key Budget 2021 announcements at a glance

Cost of living, or enjoying doing it, will continue to be a struggle for many, IFS suggests

15:28 , Jon Sharman

Average incomes in 2025 are predicted to be more than a quarter of where they might have been if a trend bucked by the 2008 financial crash had continued, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

The IFS released a graph after Rishi Sunak’s Budget speech setting out the data.

At the same time, prices are rising and inflation is soaring, crunching the value of people’s pay packets.

Sunak has broken manifesto pledge on UK shared prosperity fund, says lawyer

15:38 , Jon Sharman

Rishi Sunak has broken a Conservative Party manifesto pledge on the UK prosperity fund, according to a former government lawyer.

Alexander Rose tweeted that the £2.6bn pledged across the four nations for 2020-25 was well below the £7.7bn given by the equivalent EU scheme between 2014 and 2020, despite a manifesto promise that Westminster’s version would match or better it.

John Rentoul: What Rishi Sunak said in his Budget speech – and what he really meant

15:48 , Jon Sharman

Did the chancellor’s pre-speech Twix-and-Sprite ritual stand him in good stead today? John Rentoul takes a look.

What Rishi Sunak said in his Budget speech – and what he really meant | John Rentoul

Almost £2bn slashed from ‘levelling up’ funding in poor areas despite PM’s pledge

15:58 , Jon Sharman

Almost £2bn has been slashed from promised development spending in poorer areas of the UK, despite Boris Johnson’s vow to “level up the country”, writes Rob Merrick.

The government had pledged to match lost EU funding – to “tackle inequality and deprivation” – which would have required at least £4.5bn over the next three years.

But Rishi Sunak’s Budget reveals just £2.6bn has been allocated and reallocates the fund to improving “functional numeracy skills”, to boost job prospects.

Man arrested over threats to deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner

16:02 , Jon Sharman

A man has been arrested over threats sent to the deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, writes Lizzie Dearden.

Man arrested over threats to deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner

Opinion: The economy is bouncing back, but the UK recovery lags behind the rest of the English-speaking world

16:12 , Jon Sharman

With one bound the chancellor is free – or so it would seem, listening to Rishi Sunak deliver the budget, writes Hamish McRae.

But as always the numbers tell a truer story than the words. And the numbers say that while the forecasts for the UK recovery have been upgraded, that is only because they were unduly negative in the past, and that there will still be a massive tightening of fiscal policy next year.

The economy is bouncing back, but the UK recovery lags behind the US | Hamish McRae

Budget response mini-roundup

16:22 , Jon Sharman

A selection of responses to Rishi Sunak’s Budget speech.

_

Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Today’s announcements were an opportunity for the government to build back better on mental health. Instead, what we have is a patchwork of uncoordinated measures. Some, like support for young children and their families, and funding for youth centres, are welcome and will certainly help those lucky enough to benefit from them.

“But as the scale of the pandemic’s mental health impacts becomes apparent, the government has been unable to articulate a vision of a mentally healthier society and create a clear, costed plan to reduce and prevent the high and increasing rates of mental health problems.

“Other decisions will actively increase risks to people’s mental health. While the increase in the living wage is welcome, the removal of the £20 universal credit uplift will exacerbate poverty and people out of work won’t benefit from the reduction in the universal credit taper rate. Research is clear that poverty is devastating for mental health.”

_

Nimesh Shah, from the Blick Rothenberg tax firm, said: “It was a Budget about managing the rising costs of living, under the threat of interest rate increases, and more infrastructure investment for the economy.

“The government had tactically already announced the health and social care levy last month. Alongside the March Budget announcement to freeze personal allowances for the next five years, working families will be worseoff from next April. A family of four with one working parent earning £62,000 will be £649 worse-off per annum in 2022-23 than 2010-11 with changes to rates, allowances, and thresholds.

“There was some limited respite for families – freezing of fuel duty, an increase to the National Living Wage to £9.50 and a change to the mechanism for tapering universal credit, but it doesn’t go far enough, especially with a 1.2 per cent increase to National Insurance coming next April.”

_

And Ian Wright from the Food and Drink Federation lobby group, said: “For many of our manufacturers and producers there was welcome news – the 50 per cent cut in business rates for hospitality, the simplification of alcohol duty and the additional support for research and development. On the latter we will campaign hard to ensure it is fairly shared out so that it creates step change in how smaller food and drink businesses innovate.

“We support the government’s plan for growth, but its success should be judged on whether it delivers the skilled people that we so desperately need.

“Today’s Budget does little to address the labour shortages which grip the nation. It was also worryingly short on action to tackle rising inflation. Given the pressures they are facing, many manufacturers will simply have no choice but continue to pass costs down the chain.”

Brexit has worsened UK supply chain crisis, government’s spending watchdog says

16:30 , Joe Middleton

Brexit has made the shortages hitting the UK economy worse compared to the rest of the world, the government’s spending watchdog has said.

Ministers have repeatedly blamed a “global crisis” for empty shelves and depleted petrol stations across the country – confusing international observers who are not facing similar problems at home.

But the government was contradicted in dramatic fashion on Wednesday by its own Office for Budget Responsibility, writes The Independent’s policy correspondent Jon Stone.

Brexit has worsened UK supply chain crisis, government’s own spending watchdog says

Budget reaction: Tory MP calls for ‘more vigorous growth policy'

16:45 , Joe Middleton

Conservative former Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood said there needed to be a “more vigorous growth policy”.

On taxation of small business and the self-employed, the MP for Wokingham said: “It still seems to me that the Government has a bit of a downer on that.”

On energy, he asked: “We are chronically short of energy in this country and yet we are an energy-rich part of the world if only we would exploit it.

“Why do we import so much gas and electricity, why are we making ourselves so dependent on wild and erratic world market prices and sometimes having to pay spot prices, when we could produce much more of our own electricity and gas at home and supply it under sensible average price contracts and give people proper security of supply.”

Universal Credit: What are ‘taper rate’ changes in Budget and who will benefit?

17:00 , Joe Middleton

Universal Credit claimants will be able to keep more of the benefit as they earn more in a major change announced by the chancellor Rishi Sunak aiming at making sure the government “rewards work”.

The government had been heavily criticised for axing the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift brought in during the pandemic – removing £6bn from the pockets of people on low incomes.

But the chancellor used his latest Budget to reveal that the “taper rate” – the amount of Universal Credit taken away for every £1 earned through work – will be changed so less is removed from those in work.

The Independent’s Adam Forrest explains everything you need to know about the UC taper rate:

Universal Credit – what are the ‘taper rate’ changes in Budget?

SNP’s Blackford brands APD cut a ‘disgrace’

17:15 , Joe Middleton

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has branded the planned cut to domestic air passenger duty (APD) a “disgrace” and called on Rishi Sunak to scrap it.

Mr Blackford questioned the wisdom of the Chancellor’s move ahead of the crunch Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

He told the Commons: “Chancellor, this is a disgrace and shows quite frankly that this is not a Government that understands the climate challenge that we all face and the Chancellor should withdraw and remove that proposal.

“Cop26 kicks off this weekend, what on earth are we doing when we’re saying to the rest of the world, that the Prime Minister has spoken today about the importance of 1.5 (degrees)... and the Chancellor wants to cut APD for domestic flights, and I can see him nodding his head, and increase APD admittedly on long-haul flights. But the fact is that C02 emissions per mile are much higher on domestic flights than they are on long-haul flights.

“If he thinks that he’s going to cut air passenger duty for Inverness and the Highlands and islands, then he’s wrong because there is no APD in Inverness and one would have thought if he’s going to make announcements he would have checked his facts before he makes them.”

Analysis: With hands tied behind its back, Sunak tells NHS to deliver

17:30 , Joe Middleton

Health Correspondent Shaun Lintern examines the pressure on the NHS after the Chancellor’s budget.

With hands tied behind its back, Sunak tells NHS to deliver

Budget reaction: Justice system given crucial investment, say The Law Society

17:45 , Joe Middleton

Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “We welcome news the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will have a £3.2bn increase in its budget to £11.5 bn in 2024-25, equivalent to a real-terms growth rate of 3.3% per year on average over the spending review period.

“In our submission to HM Treasury we stressed the need for the MoJ’s budget to rise at least in line with inflation for the duration of the spending round and we are relieved the government listened to us.

“It is good news the government has committed to better access to justice by investing more than £1bn to increase capacity and efficiency across the courts system, tackle the growing court backlogs and help the system recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“A healthy legal system is vital for individuals, businesses and achieving levelling up. Legal aid for people on lower incomes and efficient courts are pillars of a fair society. Few things are more empowering than the ability to uphold and protect our rights.”

Women have nothing to thank Rishi Sunak for today

18:00 , Joe Middleton

In recreating a fraction of the support families once had, the government is making a devastating admission of failure to a whole generation, writes Hannah Fearn.

Parents have nothing to thank Rishi Sunak for today | Hannah Fearn

Charities convey disappointment aid cuts will remain for three years

18:15 , Joe Middleton

Charities and campaigners have expressed anger and disappointment that cuts to the UK’s overseas aid budget will remain for at least another three years.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told MPs he expected the improving public finances to allow him to restore the commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas development aid in 2024-25.

It followed the controversial decision last year to reduce it to 0.5% - despite 0.7% being enshrined in law - as part of the emergency measures to deal with the pandemic.

Amy Dodd of The One Campaign to end extreme global poverty said the Chancellor should have acted to restore the 0.7% target immediately.

She expressed concern that the “lack of clarity” in his statement could mean the Treasury was planning to further dilute the UK’s commitment to development aid by using it to fund things such as Covid vaccines, which were not in the original target.

“This lack of clarity given is disappointing and strengthens concerns that the Chancellor is using accounting trickery to make further cuts,” she said.

“Having already shrunk the UK’s support for development, implementing further cuts by stealth would exacerbate the challenges of climate and Covid already faced by developing countries.

“If Government is serious about tackling global challenges, as it should be on the eve of G20 and Cop26, it should commit to returning to 0.7% now, as the UK economy bounces back to pre-Covid levels and when it is most critically needed.”

Nick Dearden of the Global Justice Now campaign said: “All the Chancellor has confirmed today is that he is incapable of looking beyond the UK’s own borders.

“Locking in aid cuts for a further three years will have a devastating impact, costing countless lives in the global south - and that should weigh on Rishi Sunak’s conscience.”

Bernard Aryeetey, Global International Affairs Director of WaterAid, said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement that the UK will return to spending 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid. However, the gradual return simply means millions of the world’s poorest people are missing out on clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene in the years to come.

“We estimate that 10 million people will miss out every year until the budget is restored. The Chancellor’s delay on restoration means three more years of dirty water, further infant mortality and the wider spread of disease for millions in vulnerable communities.”

What does the Budget mean for your personal finances?

18:30 , Joe Middleton

Rishi Sunak promised to deliver a new post-Covid economy defined by higher wages and higher skills, pointing to better-than-expected figures for economic growth and unemployment.

He was also keen to acknowledge that the big numbers mean very little to most people, what really counts is whether government’s decisions improve individuals’ lives. So did the chancellor deliver?

Ben Chapman has the details.

What does the Budget mean for your personal finances?

Tory MP welcomes Sunak’s Budget but thinks focus should be on ‘growing the economy'

18:41 , Joe Middleton

Conservative former cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said that while he welcomes Rishi Sunak’s Budget, he believes his focus should be on “growing the economy” rather than “seeing taxes rise”.

He told the House: “There is a huge amount within the Chancellor’s announcement today to be applauded, I commend him and the Treasury team and I wish them well.

“I do think their focus now needs to be on growing the economy and making the UK the most competitive place it possibly can be rather than seeing taxes rise, expenditure increase and risking the private sector not being able to flourish and build that optimistic vision that the Chancellor laid out.”

Budget 2021 calculator: What does it mean for you

18:54 , Joe Middleton

Rishi Sunak vowed to help families to meet the rising cost of living and promised a “stronger economy of the future” as he revealed a host of changes in the 2021 Budget.

The chancellor announced a planned fuel duty hike would be scrapped and duty on UK domestic flights would be slashed in his statement to parliament on Wednesday.

Another key announcement was about changes to alcohol duties, which included a planned rise in duty on spirits, wine, cider and beer would be cancelled.

Click the link below and input a few details and the budget calculator will offer an indication as to how much better or worse you will be following the chancellor’s announcements.

Budget 2021 calculator: What does it mean for you

Freeports of no economic benefit says Treasury watchdog, in damning verdict

19:15 , Joe Middleton

Freeports will fail to boost the UK economy, the Treasury watchdog says, in a damning verdict on Rishi Sunak’s flagship policy.

Eight English ports are being granted controversial tax breaks – to “generate trade and jobs”, the chancellor has claimed – at a cost of £200m, in what has been hailed as a benefit from Brexit.

But the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has dismissed the claim in its assessment of the budget and spending review, in an embarrassment to ministers.

The Independent’s deputy political editor Rob Merrick has the details.

Freeports of no economic benefit says Treasury watchdog, in damning verdict

Inflation could soon hit highest level in three decades, government spending watchdog warns

19:29 , Joe Middleton

Inflation could soon reach its highest level for three decades, pilling pressure on living costs and eating into the chancellor’s kitty for future budgets, according to government spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

A host of factors including global and Brexit supply chain disruption could push price growth close to 5 per cent next year, and will average 4 per cent, the OBR said. The risk of reaching a peak of around 5 per cent matches the figure suggested by Bank of England chief economist Hugh Pill last week.

Higher prices will hold back households’ spending power in the months and years ahead. Inflation will “weigh on income growth in both 2021 and 2022” the OBR said, resulting in an 0.8 per cent annual growth rate on average over the next five years.

Anna Isaac has the details.

Inflation could soon hit highest level in three decades, spending watchdog warns

Tory MP urges rethink on increased NI contributions

19:49 , Joe Middleton

Conservative MP John Baron, who represents Basildon and Billericay, urged the Government to rethink about increasing National Insurance contributions, as it will reflect in “lower pay and higher prices”.

Mr Baron told the Commons: “I make no apologies in opposing the increase in National Insurance. We used to believe in this party that it was a tax on jobs, we seem to have drifted away from that.

“I would urge the Treasury frontbench to think about that because an increase in National Insurance is in the end reflected in lower pay and higher prices, which are bad for workers, businesses, customers and the wider economy as a whole.”

The MP for Basildon and Billericay insisted the Government should instead take another look at reducing corporation tax over time, saying: “All the evidence suggests that if you reduce corporation tax or taxes generally in the medium to long term, you increase revenues.”

Conservative Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said that while he welcomes initiatives such as investments in electric vehicles and efforts to insulate homes, this is not enough “if we really want to move the scale” of reaching net zero.

He said: “I’d strongly urge the Government to advance the Modular Nuclear Reactor Programme. This is something we excel in across the world.

“This is what Rolls Royce does, they cost about £2 billion per unit, you can make them in a factory every six months.

“We can not only reduce C02 emissions in this country but we can help other countries around the world, particularly Commonwealth friends as well, who may find it very difficult to reduce C02 emissions.”

IFS: Sunak plans to allow council tax rises of just under 3% a year over next 3 years

20:04 , Joe Middleton

Pub and beer producers welcome ‘draught relief’ in Sunak’s Budget

20:20 , Joe Middleton

Pubs and beer producers have welcomed the “draught relief” announcement in the Chancellor’s Budget, though some doubted it would have a meaningful impact on the sector.

Rishi Sunak told MPs in his Budget speech that duty rates for draught beer and cider will be cut by 5%, taking 3p off a pint in a pub.

Taxes on sparkling wine and some lower-strength products will also be cut as part of a huge overhaul of the UK’s alcohol duty system.

Mr Sunak also said the planned increase in duty on spirits such as Scotch whisky, wine, cider and beer will be cancelled from midnight, which alone will represent a tax cut worth £3 billion.

The Treasury said it will slash the number of main duty rates from 15 to six as part of the reforms, which will come into effect in February 2023.

Brewers hailed the announcement as a boost to an industry struggling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, though some said it did not go far enough.

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King - the UK’s biggest pub and brewer, said: “Today’s budget is a much needed vote of confidence in the great British pub as we face into an uncertain winter, labour disruption and rising costs.

“Creating a draught rate and simplifying the duty system is positive news for our 2,700 pubs and the communities we serve across the UK.”

Tom Jenkinson, business partner at the Aylesbury-based family-run brewery Chiltern Brewery, said the 5% cut to the tax on pulled pints was unlikely to make a “great difference”.

“The headline is attention-grabbing because it’s a reduction,” he told the PA.

“The question is quite what that transpires to - 3p is not going to make much of a difference at the bar. 50p might do; I think 3p is going to get lost in the noise.

“If you take 5% off, it’s not a lot of money to be honest ... It’s a step in the right direction, but I’m not sure how much it’ll transpire to the punter behind the bar.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting