Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled an additional £700m funding boost for sports and culture, as part of plans to help the UK economy recover from the effects of the pandemic.
Announcing his Budget today (3 March), setting out the government's tax and spending plans for the year ahead, Sunak said sport will receive £300m worth of extra funding, with the likes of cricket, tennis and horse racing among those to benefit.
There will also be £25m worth of new funding to support grassroots football – which the government says will be enough to build "around 700 new pitches" across the UK. Football fans are also likely to welcome a promise to officially back a joint UK and Ireland bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup.
For arts and culture, an extra £300m will be added to the government's £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund.
Museums and cultural bodies in England will receive £90m to keep going until they can open their doors.
A further £18.8m has been earmarked for community cultural projects, while another £77m allocated for similar initiatives in the devolved nations.
Meanwhile, elsewhere within the leisure sector, the hospitality and tourism industries will continue to benefit from a reduced rate for VAT – at 5 per cent – for the next six months (up until 30 September).
After that, an interim rate of 12.5 per cent will come into force, running until April 2022, when the normal rate of VAT of 20 per cent will return.
Other measures introduced by the Chancellor, designed to support UK businesses, include:
• An extension to the Job Retention Scheme (or furlough) until the end of September 2021.
• Extension of the business rates holiday until the end of June 2020.
• Support for the self-employed (those who have sole trader status) will also be continued until September 2021.
• A new loan service will also be introduced, with businesses of any size being able to apply for loans between £25,000 and £10m until the end of 2020. The government will guarantee these by 80 per cent.
• Incentive payments for firms hiring apprentices will be doubled to £3,000. There will also be a £126m fund to help companies offer trainee shifts to apprentices.
Sunak said that, according to the latest figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the UK economy will return to pre-COVID levels by the middle of 2022 – six months sooner that initial estimates.
"The OBR forecast that our economy will grow this year by 4 per cent, then by 7.3 per cent in 2022, by 1.7 per cent in 2023, 1.6 per cent in 2024 and 1.7 per cent in 2025," he said.