I am writing this column a couple of hours before the Chancellor takes to the House of Commons to announce the Spring Budget.
After a year of economic upheaval as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, this certainly will not be a regular budget with more financial support being announced and extended as we cautiously ease out of lockdown.
The main headline will be the extension of furlough until September and there has been some discussion as to why this is the case, if the aim is to remove legal social restrictions in June. There are two reasons. The Prime Minister did say that those ‘dates’ were conditional on meeting all four tests, as detailed regarding the vaccine rollout and infection rate, as the Government focuses on the data. The dates released are ‘not before’ dates rather than fixed deadlines. But if – and hopefully when – the country gets back to close to normal in June, the economy will not just open up, but will prosper with it gradually. This gives employers some leeway to welcome staff back at a steady rate, so it saves jobs in the long run.
I know what a lifeline furlough (and the various other support) has been to so many of my constituents and I hope this will be a relief that there will be a chance to slowly return to work with a job still available.
Much of the detail is still to be announced but I know the Treasury is working extremely hard to ensure there is prosperity for the future, despite the huge amount of emergency Government spending which has had to be done and the impact the pandemic has had on businesses and employees.