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Budget 2020: Businesses around Suffolk praise the budget’s coronavirus measures

PUBLISHED: 17:50 11 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:50 11 March 2020

Business leaders from Suffolk, UK, have reacted to chancellor Rishi Sunak's coronavirus measures.  Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA

Business leaders from Suffolk, UK, have reacted to chancellor Rishi Sunak's coronavirus measures. Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA

Businesses from around Suffolk have praised the budget for the support it will give them through the disruption caused by coronavirus – but also raised concerns.

Helen Rudd, managing director Prominent PR.  Picture: CONTRIBUTEDHelen Rudd, managing director Prominent PR. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said there was 'likely to be a temporary disruption' to the economy as a result of the disease but insisted his plans would bring 'stability and security'.

This morning a survey found that one in three Suffolk businesses feared being made bankrupt as a result, and the Bank of England cut interest rates from 0.75% to 0.25%.

MORE: Budget 2020: Farmers fears' over loss of tax perks prove unfounded

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A large part of the budget was focussed on shepherding small and medium businesses through the disruption caused by the disease.

These measures include:

- Retail, leisure and hospitality firms with a rateable value of under £51,000 will pay no business rates this year in a tax holiday worth £1 billion.

Tarnia Robertson  Picture: Ruth Leach PhotographyTarnia Robertson Picture: Ruth Leach Photography

- The Government will fully meet the cost of providing statutory sick pay for up to 14 days for workers in firms with up to 250 employees, providing over £2bn for up to two million businesses.

- There will also be £3,000 cash grant to businesses eligible for small business rates relief.

- Businesses that are disrupted by coronavirus will also be able to access disruption loans to help tide them over.

Helen Rudd, managing director of Prominent PR, said: 'Government funding of statutory sick pay for businesses like Prominent is a huge relief in the current climate. Cash grants for businesses eligible for small business rates relief will also go a long way to helping cash flow.

Hadleigh Maids Gavin Bowie, centre. Picture: MICHAEL JARVIS/EACHHadleigh Maids Gavin Bowie, centre. Picture: MICHAEL JARVIS/EACH

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'Business interruption loans will prove a helping hand for SMEs if things get really tough. It's an astonishing budget for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who will have been in panic mode recently, and should provide much needed relief.'

Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership said: 'This is an uncertain time for businesses so it's good to see the Budget aimed at easing some of the potential economic impact of coronavirus. Business rate relief, changes to Statutory Sick Pay policy and direct support for small firms will all help businesses navigate through these difficult, but temporary, challenges.'

Katie Varney, partner at Ensors chartered accountants, said: 'It was reassuring to hear that the chancellor also recognises the potential hardship that could fall on the self-employed and those working in the gig economy, who are not entitled to statutory sick pay. Benefits for the self-employed will be easier to obtain, with the Employment & Support Allowance being accessible on the first day of sickness and the minimum income floor for Universal Credits being temporarily removed.'

Helen Driver an ex-city fund manager and founder of Moneyready, an education platform to teach children about how to manage money, said: 'I am encouraged by the package of measures to protect small businesses in the event of the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak - it seems pretty robust and covers everything from a rates holiday for small retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses to extra funds to bolster and boost SMEs during the worst period.

'I was also thrilled with the fact that the government is scrapping VAT on digital books and magazines. As someone who works in the education sector, measures like this are absolutely to be encouraged.'

But the chancellor's plastic tax, which would see businesses pay £200 for every tonne of non-recycled plastic packaging they produce, met with a mixed response.

Gavin Bowie, sales and marketing director at chocolate company Hadleigh Maid, which has recently launched a plastic free packaging line said: 'Any tax on the plastic businesses that create this problem is a good thing. But what the government really needs to do is align their recycling facilities across the country to make it easier for people to recycle.'

Tarnia Robertson, managing director at Ufford Park Woodbridge, Hotel, Golf and Spa said: 'As a business which has placed a huge emphasis on becoming more green and environmentally friendly in the way we operate, I think the new £200 levy on non-recycled plastic is a great way to encourage more businesses to follow suit.

'Over the last five years we have drastically reduced the amount of plastic we use in the hotel, from replacing toiletries in our bathrooms with dispensers and using glass bottles in place of plastic ones in the restaurant. Hopefully the new £200 levy on non-recycled plastic will encourage other businesses to do the same.'

The budget's housing measures met with a similarly mixed response.

Simon Girling, director at construction company SEH French, said: 'The housing spending announced is very welcome.

'This should mean more opportunities for the construction industry like ourselves to support the provision of affordable living across the east region.

'Infrastructure spending is also extremely good news for the east, where additional funding is needed on our road and rail network.'

But, Richard Norrington, chief executive of Ipswich Building Society said: 'It was disappointing not to see more measures on ramping up housebuilding in England, which continues to run well below the 300,000 homes per year target, and to help the large number of first time buyers who are still struggling to find affordable properties to get a foot on the housing ladder.

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