A central plank of the Chancellor’s speech was the importance of protecting and supporting jobs, as he unveiled a series of employment measures.
The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) was extended to the end of September. A fourth grant under the scheme will run from February until April, covering up to 80 per cent of three months’ trading profits up to £7,500. There will be a fifth grant from May to September.
Those whose turnover has fallen by 30 per cent or more will get the 80 per cent grant, while self-employed people whose turnover has fallen by less than 30 per cent will be entitled to a 30 per cent grant.
The Treasury is widening access to grants, which should see hundreds of thousands more self-employed individuals become eligible.
Rishi Sunak’s confirmation of an extension of the furlough scheme was also welcomed. Workers will now continue to receive 80 per cent of their current salary for hours not worked until the end of September.
The Chancellor also announced an increased payment of £3,000 for firms hiring an apprentice, and a new “flexi-job” apprenticeship programme to be created from a special fund, which will enable apprentices to work with several employers in one sector. Around £126m in additional support was also detailed, for 40,000 more traineeships south of the Border.
Andrew McRae, policy chair for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland, welcomed most of the Budget announcements but urged policymakers to take a long-term view to small business recovery.
He said: “The package of measures from the Chancellor gives the bulk of Scotland’s small business community more fuel to get through the last lap of this crisis.
“Specifically, the important move to extend furlough buys local employers important time until the wider economy gets up and running. And additional emergency payments for the self-employed means that those that work for themselves aren’t going to be left high and dry over the summer.
“However these measures could have been complemented with a cut in employers’ national insurance contributions to make it cheaper to create jobs.”
He added: “Rates and grants changes for firms in England should provide food for thought for Scottish policymakers.”
Mike Clancy, general secretary of trade union Prospect, said: “There were many important measures in this Budget, including more support for the creative industries and the extension of furlough, but the serious gaps that remain in the government’s economic plan threaten the economic recovery.
“The failure to offer any bespoke support for aviation and the continued refusal to address most of the gaps in the self employed income support scheme are both missed opportunities that will put brakes on the economy for months.
“It is also clear that health and safety is crucial to reopening the economy, so it is inexplicable that the Chancellor has not found any additional funds for the Health and Safety Executive who have been badly overstretched by Covid.”