UK Budget summary: lots on surviving, little on thriving

Even before Coronavirus came to the UK, Boris Johnson’s second choice Chancellor had an unenviable task delivering his first Budget so soon after the surprise resignation of his predecessor. Many will feel reassured by Rishi Sunak’s debut, particularly by his apparent blank cheque for the NHS to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the announcements for present and prospective social entrepreneurs were less positive.

Amidst a flurry of fiscal stimuli being announced, a few measures stood out that could help some current social entrepreneurs to steer their ventures through the tough times ahead:

  • A ‘Coronovirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme’ will support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts of up to £1.2 million in value.
  • A dedicated COVID-19 HMRC helpline will guide businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities to receive support with their tax affairs.
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be extended to those advised to self-isolate, those caring for others who self-isolate, and to those who cannot claim SSP who are in the welfare system. Also, businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be able to claim a refund on SSP costs for up to two weeks per employee
  • Businesses on Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rate Relief will be able to seek £3,000 in small business grant funding from their Local Authority.
  • Lastly, business rate relief for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors will temporarily increase to 100% in 2020-21.

Nothing particularly bad there then, but the problem is there wasn’t much else. Social ventures are likely to be amongst the first to feel the effects of Coronavirus – most have less than 10 employees, and most trade with the general public – so it’s concerning that the total number of mentions of social enterprise in the Treasury’s 121-page Budget was zero. There was also no hint of policy reform that could benefit social entrepreneurs. For instance, no update was given on social value procurement at national level, and no improvement on pre-election plans for social care spending was offered.

The Chancellor’s first Budget particularly came up short for people who may want to start-up a social venture in the future. Last November, independent research commissioned by UnLtd revealed that 5.2 million adults in the UK have an idea for a social venture that they haven’t set-up yet, so the Chancellor’s new start-up loans for 10,000 entrepreneurs simply won’t suffice.

Despite all the spending announcements, the 2020 Budget fails to fully unleash the potential that social entrepreneurs can bring. Quite simply, this Government must utilise the UK’s present and prospective social entrepreneurs if it is to honour its promise to ‘level up’ Britain. Post-Coronavirus, we’ll hope to see the Government untap the solutions that people have to the social and environmental challenges that will otherwise persist.

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Kevin Armstrong Policy Lead

At UnLtd I influence stakeholder policies to help create a future where enterprising people are transforming our world for good. I’m using my background working for charities, social enterprises and governments across the UK to change policies so it’s easier for people to find the enterprising solutions we need to society’s challenges locally and nationally. We can’t improve policies without you, so please keep an eye on the website for opportunities to get involved.

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