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Budget 2021: What it means for furlough, stamp duty, rent and household bills

This is a crunch year for the Budget with furlough, stamp duty, rent and mortgages on the agenda – here's what it means for you
Rishi Sunak at his desk

This week’s Budget is one of the most important in recent times. Particularly for all those worried about the impact of continuing lockdown restrictions on their pocket or – like millions of Brits – already in hardship.

Almost a year ago Chancellor Rishi Sunak first addressed a newly locked down nation and promised the government had our backs covered. With the Budget this week, many will be watching closely to see whether the Chancellor continues to do “whatever it takes”.

His latest package of financial measures is likely to be presented as part of the government’s ‘road to recovery’ as the country eyes an exit from lockdown and looking to the future. But most of us are still very much focused on the here and now.

The Big Issue’s Financial Health campaign, backed by Experian, is providing advice to all those affected financially by the pandemic and show how to plan for a stronger future.

Here, Experian’s credit rating expert James Jones outlines what we can expect in the Budget, and what to look out for as we work out what it means for each of us.

Furlough

The clock is running down on many of the government measures providing essential support to people hit by the pandemic. Given the number of workers and traders still suffering, particularly in retail and hospitality, many will be keeping an ear out for news on whether the Coronavirus job retention scheme (that’s furlough) will be extended or for an update on the latest self-employed income support scheme grant.

For the millions who have been unable to access help, the announcement of what happens next will be equally crucial, and organisations such as Big Issue Changemakers ExcludedUK are lobbying for a fairer deal for all.

Universal Credit

The temporary boost to Universal Credit is also set to expire shortly. This has been a lifeline, and consumer bodies have lobbied hard for an extension. It’s closely tied to the UK’s financial health given the vital support it’s provided to some of the most vulnerable. In the Budget Sunak is also being pressed to address concerns about the estimated 750,000 tenants in rent arrears. Hugely worrying for those affected.

Stamp duty

Sunak announced a six-month stamp duty holiday last summer, to help stimulate a lacklustre housing market. Widely welcomed, the concession’s due end on 31 March. But there are concerns that thousands could be left high and dry. Some current buyers have already banked the saving and may be caught short if completions overrun. Will the government bow to demands for an extension?

Whatever the outcome, if you’re planning to buy a home or remortgage soon, simple steps can help you secure a great deal and prevent last-minute hiccups.

Building a decent deposit will help shrink your loan-to-value ratio and unlock cheaper loans. As will ensuring you have a healthy credit rating. Checking your credit report and score early on will give you time to rectify any glitches and grow your score if it falls short. Reducing existing borrowing will help with both that and convincing the lender you can comfortably afford your new payments.

Mortgages and credit

On that last point, mortgage lenders do closely scrutinise ‘affordability’. To help, it’s wise to avoid applying for other credit in the run-up to the mortgage application. A recent payday loan may prompt questions. If you’ve taken a recent mortgage payment holiday – another Coronavirus support measure currently closing on 31 March – be open about this with the lender. It may show up during their assessment, despite not appearing on your credit report.

Doing your own Budget

While the Chancellor puts the country’s finances under the microscope in his Budget, why not take time to give your own finances a thorough examination? A personal spending review can reap handsome rewards. Check regular outgoings to see what you might reduce or cut out, freeing up funds towards your financial priorities. Perhaps you can increase your income. The Turn 2 Us website includes a free benefits calculator – don’t miss out on support you’re due.

Shop around and switch

Where regular bills are concerned, loyalty doesn’t pay. Shop around and switch to better deals. This includes your existing borrowing, savings, insurance, and household bills such as TV/broadband and energy. Comparison sites can help you find better deals without damaging your credit score.

With the Energy Price Cap soon to rise by an average of £97 a year, if you’re on a standard tariff it’s a good time to switch. Millions of us pay over the odds for our energy, unnecessarily.

Finally, review your credit report and score. It will give any application you make for credit a helpful shot in the arm. You’ll find plenty of advice on the Experian website on ways to boost it.

Follow James on Twitter for more tips @AskJames