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Political editor Paul Francis gives his analysis of Chancellor Rishi Sunak's budget


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All budgets tend to be a mix of giving with one hand and taking away with another.

But not all budgets take place against a backdrop of the country in the grip of a viral pandemic.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, tipped to be a future leader of his party, had the delicate job of combining measures to help businesses hold on until the virus was vanquished at the same time as painting a more optimistic picture for the future.

As is the trend, many of the eye-catching highlights of his budget had already been announced - not in Parliament of course but in the Press.

Which meant he had to deliver on other proposals that had not been selectively leaked.

Among the headline grabbing announcements were around the planned increase in corporation tax to 25%. To sweeten the pill, he said the increase would not come in until 2023. This delayed tax approach left some scratching their head.

If the UK was to attract other companies, knowing they were to get clobbered by a higher tax in two years time, did not seem to add up.

There is planned increase in corporation tax to 25%, but not until 2023. Stock picture
There is planned increase in corporation tax to 25%, but not until 2023. Stock picture

And while the extension to the furlough scheme will bring some relief, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warned that many of the 475,000 people who had been on furlough for six months or more were likely to face the same problems getting back into work as the long time employed.

Kent's hard-pressed hospitality sector will also be glad the 5% reduced rate of VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector will be extended for six months to the end of September, with an interim rate of 12.5% for another six months after that.

Whether it will be enough to stop some of the smaller businesses in this sector from going under remains to be seen.

The Chancellor also spent some considerable time detailing how he believes the creation of new freeports will turbo charge the economy, particularly in deprived regions.

His problem here is that in terms of voter engagement, it is not an easy concept to explain. Not only that but there seem to be genuine fears these freeports might simply end at best relocating, rather than creating, economic activity and jobs.

The free port plan hopes to boost the national economy as well as economies in Kent and Essex. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
The free port plan hopes to boost the national economy as well as economies in Kent and Essex. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

Among the freeports getting the green light was one for the Thames in north Kent.

The Chancellor probably did just enough to quell any unease among backbenchers but this budget was not a game changer.

Anyone looking for something radical will probably be disappointed. This was broadly a safety first budget with one potential faultline in the form of a very un-Conservative tax increase.

Head to our politics page for expert analysis and all the latest news from your politicians and councils.

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