Chancellor Rishi Sunak opened his first Budget speech with a statement about coronavirus, addressing the concerns of the British public in the face of the Covid19 crisis.

Addressing the anxieties of business owners and freelancers, minister Sunak has promised the abolishment of business rates for the remainder of the year, a cash grant for SMEs, an extension of statutory pay, and the provision of special loans of up to £1.2m.

Budget 2020 highlights relevant to the events industry

Small business rates relief

£3,000 cash grant per business for any firm that is currently eligible for the small business rates relief. “This is a £2bn cash injection direct to 700,000 of our smallest businesses,” the Chancellor said.

Government to abolish business rates for certain sectors for a year

All retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be exempt from paying business rates over the next financial year, the chancellor announced today.

He said: “Our manifesto promised that for shops, cinemas, restaurants and music venues… with a rateable value of less than £51,000… we would increase their business rates retail discount to 50%.

“Today I can go further, and take the exceptional step, for this coming year, of abolishing their business rates altogether.”

Statutory sick pay

The chancellor has said that statutory sick pay will be available to anyone advised to self-isolate, with sick notes available through 111.

For those who do not qualify for sick pay, it will be easier to get benefits, the chancellor added.

Statutory sick pay is paid by employers, meaning that those who are self-employed are not eligible. However, agency workers are entitled. An employee must earn at least £118 per week in order to qualify. It is currently set at £94.25 per week.

Benefits for freelancers

Following an announcement that the government will pay statutory sick pay from day one, rather than day four, minister Sunak added” “not everyone is eligible for statutory sick pay.

“There are millions of people working hard, who are self-employed or in the gig economy. They will need our help too. So, to support them during this period, we will make it quicker and easier to get benefits.”

Sick pay relief to businesses

The cost to a business of having to have someone off work for up to 14 days will be refunded, the chancellor confirmed.

Minister Sunak says £2bn will be allocated to cover firms that lose out because staff are off sick. He says this will apply to firms that employ fewer than 250 staff.

Loan access for businesses

Sunak has announced that a coronavirus loan scheme is to be introduced to cover the cost of salaries and bills, which will offer loans of up to £1.2m to support small and medium sized businesses. The loans will be guaranteed by the government.

He told the Commons: “The government will offer a generous guarantee on those loans, covering up to 80% of losses, with no fees, so that banks can lend with confidence.”

“This will unlock up to £1bn of attractive working capital loans to support small businesses, with more as needed.”

Red diesel

The Chancellor scrapped the tax rebate for red diesel and Non-Road Machinery (NRM) vehicles. This means that, in 2023, fuel bills for generators, plant and fairgrounds will increase.

The diesel is coloured with a red dye to ensure it is not illegally used in road vehicles. It is estimated to account for 15% of the total use of diesel in the UK. It is widely used in the festival and event industry.