The joy, and drama, of Budget day

By Ellie Pocock on Thursday, 12 March 2020

It’s the day every financial services PR eagerly awaits. Budget day. A day when time is truly of the essence and being the first one to get your comment under the nose of a journalist really counts. But, set against a backdrop of a brand-new Chancellor looking to make his mark and coronavirus tightening its grip on the nation, it was always set to be a slightly different version of events.

When Rishi Sunak was just getting his feet under the table it was confirmed the Budget statement would go ahead as planned. With just four weeks to rewrite and deliver the future monetary policy of the country it was already going to be a challenge. But, with coronavirus spreading across the UK, and the threat of lockdown imminent, there was an added layer of complexity and this shone through in yesterday’s announcements.

It all began on Wednesday at 07.08am when the Bank of England announced an emergency cut to interest rates in a bid to support business and encourage spending through the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, something we’ve never seen before on Budget day.

Rishi Sunak then took to the stand at 12.30 for one of the longest Budget statements in recent times. With a speech full of cries of ‘this budget will get it done’ and ‘today, I go further’ Rishi spent an hour and three minutes laying out an array of measures to stabilise the economy, support small businesses and safeguard the earnings of many across the country. It was inevitable that coronavirus would dominate but the packages announced were generous with £30 billion to help "British people, British jobs and British businesses". A £5 billion emergency response fund for the NHS was announced, business rates abolished across the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, refunds for small firms that will have to make sick pay payments and statutory sick pay made available from day one for those having to self-isolate.

Away from coronavirus measures there were several other headline grabbers. The Government pledged £600 billion for roads, rail, broadband and housing in the next five years and the duty freeze on spirits, beer, cider and wine slipped down very nicely!

We issued a total of 34 comments for our clients yesterday across a number of different topics, from JISA allowance hikes, changes to the tapered allowance threshold for pension tax through to a consultation on tax advice standards and scrapping VAT on digital publications.

But, we wanted to share some of our favourite sound bites from the day which got the nod from compliance, grabbed the attention of journalists when they had emails flooding in, and made it into the news.

Russ Mould of AJ Bell on the rate cut early yesterday morning - “The latest rate cut means the Bank of England is simply attempting the impossible and trying to push custard uphill,”

This was a "box-office Budget," - Jonathan Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors.

Research chief Matthew Lesh at the Adam Smith Institute on the huge spending plans - "Spending like a drunken sailor will not create a thriving entrepreneurial economy.”

“What we got was a procession of gerbil after gerbil after gerbil coming out of the hat!’ – Money Savings Experts’ Martin Lewis reacts to the Budget.

And, finally, we’re a big fan of this calculator developed by Deloitte and hosted on the BBC website so people can work out of they are richer or poorer as a result of today’s budget. I’m off to input my details today – fingers crossed.


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