Business groups welcome 'box office budget' but unions more critical

  • Video report by ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills

Business leaders have welcomed many of the measures announced by the Chancellor, one calling it a "box office Budget".

But unions were more critical, saying the extra spending announced did not compensate for the years of cuts and under investment, especially in public services.

Jonathan Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: "This was a box-office Budget. Given the circumstances, the Chancellor had to be bold, and he came through for business today.

"With the coronavirus outbreak threatening a cashflow crunch, measures to cut costs and support loans to businesses are on the money. Wider reliefs around business rates and job taxes will also buoy firms as they look to weather Covid-19's implications.

"Directors have long been crying out for transport and digital upgrades, but this doesn't mean there can be a blank cheque. The question now is how we translate that money into real improvements for local economies."

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "This is a pro-small business Budget, which has delivered a high streets bonus, a series of Conservative manifesto promises to small businesses, and emergency steps to support small firms through the coronavirus outbreak."

Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "There's nowhere near enough in the Budget to help working people who have to self-isolate - the Government can dress it up however they want.

"Statutory sick pay is £18 per day, no one can live on that, and that's what the Government seem to expect the 20% of the population who may have to self-isolate to do. If it's possible, let's see ministers do it.

"Coronavirus has highlighted the abysmal state of sick pay in this country. This Budget was an opportunity for the Government to right a wrong, but typically they've completely ignored it."

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish TUC, said: "The Tory party has finally accepted what people have known for years - investing in infrastructure and public services is good for the economy.

"Ten years too late, prompted by the current crisis, the Tories also seem finally to have realised that you can borrow to spend as well as borrow to invest.

"But today's budget is a long way shy of what is needed. Announcements on spending for the NHS and infrastructure development are welcome, but they do not compensate for the years of cuts and under investment which have left our economy and public services in such a fragile state."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "This spending U-turn is badly overdue. The priority now must be to repair the damage of 10 years of Tory devastation.

"Helping working families and rebuilding public services must come first, and we need to see concrete action on the challenges of the future.

"This means banning zero-hours contracts, sorting social care, ending the UK's dire regional inequalities, setting out a credible plan to achieve net zero, and getting an EU trade deal that supports jobs and workers across the UK."

Claire Ainsley, executive director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: "The test for levelling up the country is whether it helps those who are locked out of opportunities to boost their standards of living.

"This budget was a strong start, but there's still more to do to target support where it's needed most."