We have lost Internet connection here in Tower Hamlets as someone petrol-bombed an electricity substation down the end of our road in protest at a service engineer 'giving his sister the look' last Wednesday. The upshot is that we cannot check if Rishi Sunak is a disqualified former Insolvency Practitioner, or if he has just got it in for our profession. Either way it seems he doesn't like us very much and wants us to be starved of work in perpetuity.
His latest ruse is to offer 700,000 shops, pubs, restaurants, hotels and other businesses, grants of up to £18,000 each as part of a £5 billion rescue scheme to prevent mass Bankruptcies as a central pillar of the most leaked spring budget in history. Staff at IVA volume providers over the north-west took to the streets in protest yesterday (Saturday 27 February) bearing placards that yelled, 'Leave Our Jobs Alone', and 'Sunak: Stay Back' as they voiced their disquiet at the next James Bond's attempts to stave off financial natural selection.
Even ITV News has told us that the UK Government's debt has risen to an eye-watering £2.1 trillion (which is equal to the value of what used to be our economy), although they also led with a story last week that a teenage couple from Stevenage shared a now viral video of their "prankster neighbour" sneaking around covered head-to-toe in shrubbery.
Last week almost 400 leaders of small and medium-sized firms from the “Fighting Back for Business” campaign wrote to the Chancellor calling for debts accrued through Government-backed loans to be entirely written off to avoid many tens of thousands of companies "crashing into insolvency". They were met outside Downing Street by a group of equally aeriated insolvency professionals arguing the polar opposite:
"We have just refurbished our office in Dudley," cried one hooded restructuring firm leader, "our business plan includes an increase in output of more than 25 per cent in the next 18 months. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr."
"I have just converted the old toilet block at our head office into a room for six new administrators. We demand justice," screamed another.
"I haven't even looked at the new shape 7 Series," lamented a third, as things started to get nasty.
The Government has said that £5 billion of extra cash grants will ensure our high streets can open their doors with optimism, although Ms Kuenssberg of the BBC had to ask about both the meaning and pronunciation of the word 'optimism', so unacquainted is she with the sentiment. Local authorities in England will receive an extra £425 million to distribute to businesses not eligible for the restart grants but nonetheless experiencing a severe impact on their business due to public health restrictions.
Whilst prematurely planning your summer holiday you should factor in that 00 Sunak is preparing to kick any reform to business rates down the road and to extend the VAT cut to 5 per cent for the hospitality sector, which was due to end on 31 March. Rumours have it that the furlough scheme will be extended "... Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky (Always), Until the ocean covers every mountain high (Always), Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea (Always), Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream ...".
Do you remember last March when Rishi Sunak said he was ready to do "whatever it takes" to keep households and businesses afloat during the pandemic? That phrase has become a real bottom-biter for the Chancellor, as multiple sectors are demanding more and more 'whatevers' as the escape route to normality extends into the summer.
Jacob Nell is a bit miserable, despite being handsomely rewarded as the Head of European Economics at Morgan Stanley. He is predicting that the unemployment rate in the UK could hit 8 per cent if we ever kick furlough into the long grass and wants Rishi to extend his largesse in all directions when it does so. He is usefully suggesting that the VAT rate should be reduced to stimulate the economy, but doing just that has cost the Chancellor (and so, all of us) £4.1 billion so far. Mr Sunak is also reluctant to increase CGT to income tax levels, as this would break an election pledge and Conservative Grandees are threatening to pull up their draw-bridges and release the hounds if he does.
Who would be Rishi Sunak this week? Whatever he does people will moan. If he didn't do it, people would moan. Even if he did all of it, people would moan.
We in the NTI newsroom will, of course, report widely on the content and effect of the budget, due in Wednesday 3 March. We don't think you should wait for three months to hear what R3 and IPA consider to be its greatest effects on our glorious profession. In the 2021 digital age, news and views should be instant and accessible (just sayin').