UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said he is preparing a Budget that provides support for people as Covid lockdown rules are eased. As the earliest restrictions in England are set to be fully lifted by 21 June he said he would provide help during that period but added that he wanted to level with people about the shock to the economy caused by Covid.
Mr Sunak dismissed claims he told Tory MPs he wanted to raise taxes now so he could cut them ahead of the next election. This comes as the government announced £5bn to help high street businesses. Meanwhile Labour's shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, accused the chancellor of being focused on politics over protecting the economy.
Mr Sunak said the government had gone "big and early" when providing support to those hit by Covid at the beginning of the pandemic - and added that there's more to come. The furlough scheme - which supports around 4.7 million people - is due to finish at the end of April along with the £20 weekly increase in Universal Credit.
He said he was focused on preparing a budget that provides support for people and businesses and families through the remaining stages of this crisis and in line with the easing of restrictions as set out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. However he also said he wanted to "be honest" with the public about the pandemic's impact on the economy and "clear about what our plan to address that is".
He warned high levels of borrowing had meant Britain was "more sensitive to interest rate changes" and that debt could "rise indefinitely" if borrowing continued after the recovery. He also added that making public finances sustainable isn't going to happen overnight but would not confirm newspaper reports he was planning to freeze income tax thresholds or raise corporation tax in a bid to lower debt.
Freezing thresholds would mean more people paying more tax as wages rose.