Rishi Sunak will provide additional support for the badly hit culture sector in his Budget, as a Tory grandee warned taxes would “have to go up”.
The Chancellor is preparing to hand out £408 million to help museums, theatres and galleries in England to reopen once coronavirus restrictions start to ease in the coming months.
Many theatres have not been able to open their doors since March 2020.
In a slew of pre-Budget teasers, Treasury officials also said Mr Sunak will use his fiscal package on Wednesday to give a “significant chunk” of a £300 million sports recovery package to cricket as fans prepare to return to stadiums this summer.
The announcements come as a former Conservative Party leader said taxes would have to be hiked as part of Britain’s Covid recovery following 12 months of heavy public borrowing to pay for furlough and other Government support efforts.
Lord Hague, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said: “It pains me to say, after spending much of my life arguing for lower taxes, that we have reached the point where at least some business and personal taxes have to go up.”
The former foreign secretary, who Mr Sunak succeeded as MP for Richmond (Yorks) in 2015, said those who opposed some form of tax rises in the current climate were buying into “dangerous illusions”.
But with rumours swirling about possible tax increases, the Prime Minister was keen to dismiss the idea of new green levies penalising consumers and motorists.
Boris Johnson told The Sun he planned to use the UK’s ambition of being carbon neutral by 2050 to “generate high quality, high skill, high wage jobs” and not to slap higher taxes on carbon-intensive foods such as meat.
The paper also reported that the Budget will see fuel duty frozen for the tenth year running.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported that Mr Johnson is keen to use a White House-style charity scheme to boost the funds he and fiancee Carrie Symonds have available to renovate their Downing Street home.
In preparation for Wednesday’s Budget, the Treasury on Monday evening revealed a series of funding packages targeting support at the beleaguered culture, sport and pub trades which have seen profits and activity knocked since social distancing was introduced at the start of the Covid outbreak last year.
Mr Sunak is expected to pump an extra £300 million into the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, as part of the measures.
National museums and cultural bodies will also receive £90 million to help keep them afloat until they can open their doors on May 17 at the earliest and £18.8 million will be provided for community cultural projects.
An additional £77 million will be given to the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to provide their culture groups with similar backing.
The Chancellor said: “Throughout the crisis we have done everything we can to support our world-renowned arts and cultural industries, and it’s only right that we continue to build on our historic package of support for the sector.
“This industry is a significant driver of economic activity, employing more than 700,000 people in jobs across the UK, and I am committed to ensuring the arts are equipped to captivate audiences in the months and years to come.”
Tate director Maria Balshaw called the announcement a “vote of confidence” in the country’s art organisations, while Creative Industries Federation chief Caroline Norbury said the cash would be a “vital part” of enabling the sector to “bounce back”.
Mr Sunak will also use the Budget to deliver a £150 million Community Ownership Fund to allow pub goers to bid for up to £250,000 to save their favourite local.
The fund, due to open for applications in the summer, is designed to help community groups to take over struggling pubs or other community assets in their area in order to keep them going.
In signs of a shifting Labour position on tax rises, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds suggested the Opposition party could support an increase to corporation tax in the “long-term”.
The Chancellor is said to be considering raising corporation tax to as much as 25% from 19%, in a move that has caused splits within Labour.
Ms Dodds used a speech on Monday to argue that now is “not the time” for tax rises but signalled she could support an increase in corporation tax in the future.
In an article for the Guardian, she went even further, saying: “There is a clear long-term case for rises in the rate of corporation tax – as well as action against loopholes – where the Conservatives have made us an international outlier for a decade.
“If there were a sensible plan to raise the rate across this parliament, of course Labour would look at that carefully – but now is not the time for immediate tax rises.”