Throughout the pandemic, South Kesteven District Council has continued to deliver vital front-line services for residents, whilst creating opportunities for growth and investment in our district.
Despite the many challenges of Covid-19, we have worked hard to support residents, local businesses and, most importantly, those in the greatest need.
One of the cornerstones of our support is our Community Hub, set up to co-ordinate help for our most vulnerable residents. Since its launch, over 18,000 vulnerable people have been contacted personally to offer support.
The Chancellor’s Budget is designed to provide an extended safety net whilst we continue to feel the effects of Covid-19. It will support the Council’s hard work to secure an economic recovery for businesses, the self-employed, and for individuals.
The Budget will also help families through the continued tough times ahead through an extended furlough scheme and an extension to the uplift in Universal Credit.
Similarly, at South Kesteven District Council, we have also stepped up with a positive response to the challenges of the pandemic. So far this year, we have supported 3,747 people with benefits claims, made hardship fund payments to 8,617 council taxpayers, totalling £546,376, distributed £91,000 of test and trace payments, and awarded over £38 million in business grants. Our own grants to foodbanks and local charities, agreed on Monday, also help direct funds to where they are most needed.
Individuals in South Kesteven will receive further support from the Government’s budget announcements:
- The weekly £20 Universal Credit uplift and support for the self-employed is extended for six months
- The minimum wage is to increase to £8.91/hour from April. This ties in with the Council’s own decision to increase the wages of our lowest-paid employees to the ‘real living wage’ rate.
- The stamp duty cut will continue until the end of June 2021, with the nil rate band set at £250,000.
- £19m of funding has been made available for domestic violence programmes.
One of the things I am most looking forward to is the continued revitalisation of our high streets and town centres. The Chancellor has been forced to make tough choices and it is good to see further vital financial support for the high street. Pubs, hairdressers, restaurants and other shops which are deemed non-essential services will welcome this. I fully support the new Restart Grant, which will help businesses reopen as we build our future economy. Initiatives to support local business announced today include:
- The furlough scheme - which pays 80% of employees' wages - is extended by a further six months.
- A further 600,000 self-employed people will be eligible for financial help.
- The 5% reduced VAT rate for tourism/hospitality will be extended for six months.
- The 100% business rates holiday in England will continue between April and June.
- £400m has been made available to help arts venues re-open
- £300m has been made available for professional sport and £25m for grassroots football.
South Kesteven District Council will continue to do all it can to support businesses through this incredibly difficult period. The national help will go hand in hand with the £5.56m Future High Streets funding for Grantham, and regeneration of the former Cummins Engineering site in Stamford, both of which will boost our local area.
Many of the aims of the Government’s budget link with the priorities of the Council set out in our Corporate Plan: to support the community by leading on growth and the economy, providing housing that meets the needs of all residents, creating healthy and strong communities, and promoting a clean and sustainable environment.
It is clear that the national response to Covid-19 is working and this budget provides a roadmap for reopening the economy.
I echo the Chancellor's prediction that "We will recover", although repairing the long-term damage will take time. If the route out of lockdown moves forward as planned, we may soon be back to "business as usual".”