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Budget forecast

Sunak expected to extend furlough until summer

Rishi Sunak at Tory conference 2020

Rishi Sunak: pressure on public finances

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will extend the furlough jobs protection scheme until the summer, it was claimed today. 

He is also likely to follow the Scottish government and leave the business rates relief package in place for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England. 

Business leaders will be relieved if Mr Sunak confirms the speculation in his 3 March Budget, though there was some disappointment today that the Treasury’s Fundamental Review of Business Rates has been pushed back to the autumn. There has been no indication that Holyrood will instigate an early review.

Extending furlough and scrapping business rates for the whole of the next financial year, as in Scotland, is likely to reignite concerns about the state of the public finances as ministers continue to borrow record amounts to keep the country afloat. 

Both The Telegraph and the Financial Times reported that Mr Sunak is planning to extend furlough into the summer months before the scheme will then be phased out.   

Business chiefs warned Mr Sunak earlier this week that one in four firms will axe staff if he does not extend coronavirus financial support beyond March and April. 

The British Chambers of Commerce said it would be a ‘huge mistake’ to ‘pull the plug’ on support now given that the finish line is ‘within sight’.        

Office for National Statistics data today showed public sector debt surged by more than £300 billion since the start of April last year when the pandemic took hold, last month being a record for January when receipts are normally higher.

Overall state debt has now hit another record high, as it continues to climb above £2.1trillion. 

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