Nobody can fault the Government – and Chancellor Rishi Sunak especially – for doing all it can to avert economic carnage, the scale of which none of u
Nobody can fault the Government – and Chancellor Rishi Sunak especially – for doing all it can to avert economic carnage, the scale of which none of us will have witnessed before in our lifetimes. But unless the country’s collective mindset changes soon, I fear the worst.
At a brisk pace, we are walking into an economic catastrophe, a result in part from most of us being too scared to leave the safety of our homes – bar the occasional trip to the nearest supermarket. We have turned our homes into our prisons rather than our castles.
For those still with jobs, we’re happier working from the comfort of our homes rather than returning to our place of work. Many senior citizens, meanwhile, remain too scared to venture far from their front doors.
Strapped for cash: Although Rishi Sunak may well come up with more money, at some stage he is going to have to draw a line in the sand
As a consequence, as a nation, we’re not spending money on public transport, putting fuel into our cars – or popping into shops on our local or work high street and getting out our wallets. The economy is quite literally dying under our feet.
I see evidence of this every working day. The trains that transport me to and from my home in Royal Berkshire resemble ghost trains – I currently enjoy my own carriage – while Kensington High Street in London (my place of work) resembles a shadow of its former self. Only TK Maxx seems to be prospering, with queues sometimes stretching to the boundaries of Kensington Gardens some 100 yards away.
Overall, it’s all rather eerie and a little scary. It’s as if we have gone into our collective shells without realising the economic consequences of our battening down of the hatches.
Of course, last Wednesday’s ‘mini’ Budget was Rishi’s latest attempt to breathe life into the economy, prevent a jobs bloodbath and stave off the frightening recession I fear is coming our way.
Following on from his earlier package of Government-backed business loans and the kindly furlough scheme, he was generosity personified, announcing a series of measures designed to encourage businesses to create jobs – and to keep on staff.
As my colleague Sarah Bridge reports opposite, the £30billion package was welcomed by many small businesses, especially those operating in the hospitality sector who will also benefit from lower VAT rates and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which is designed to put bums on seats in pubs and restaurants.
The exemption from stamp duty of home purchases up to £500,000 was also quite rightly warmly received, although it is doubtful whether the move will stave off a house price correction. Unemployment, or the fear of it, will quell demand.
Anecdotally, asking prices for homes in Wokingham (where I live) have dropped sharply in the past month and I can’t imagine that is a result of local factors (it’s a prosperous town).
Sadly, the task facing the Chancellor is a near impossible one. Every business support measure he introduces is followed by calls for yet more Government assistance.
In the wake of Wednesday’s mini-Budget, it was the turn of the self-employed, retailers and owners of pubs that only serve drinks, to argue for greater financial support.
Although Rishi may well come up with more money, at some stage he is going to have to draw a line in the sand, otherwise the country’s finances are going to be imperilled. While some readers may disagree, it’s surely now time for the nation to get back to a near ‘normal’ state.
That means going back to work. It means eating out (go on and take advantage of Eat Out to Help Out) and spending some of the money we have squirrelled away in lockdown.
Yes, there is the real fear of a second wave of Covid-19 – and we need to do all we can to ensure it doesn’t happen. But we simply have to save our economy from meltdown. Please, please do your bit.
Although Rishi has understandably been distracted as of late, I hope he does not renege on his promise to ensure cash remains a key part of our society. For guidance, he should look west.
The US has just introduced a ‘payment choice act’ that prohibits businesses from refusing to accept cash from customers. What a splendid idea.