Sunak set to extend furlough while PM spends £100k to refurbish flat

Daily news Downing Street Economy

Rishi Sunak is set to announce the furlough scheme will be extended until the end of September in with the chancellor pledging to use the “full firepower” at his disposal to protect jobs.

The chancellor unveils full details of his budget tomorrow (Wednesday) when he also expected to cut VAT for hospitality firms, keep the £20 uplift in Universal Credit for another six months, and set out a new round of grants for the self employed.

Sunak is facing a “potential row” with some backbench Conservatives over potential tax rises, reports the BBC, with fears a tax hike would impact negatively on economic growth. The Guardian reports the chancellor will extend the eligibility for the self-employed grants to a further 600,000 “to fend off accusations that too many people have slipped through the government’s salary safety net”.

The Telegraph are reporting the budget will also contain a three month extension to the stamp duty holiday that applies to properties worth up to £500,000 – saving house buyers up to £15,000 in tax, but costing the Treasury “as much as £1 billion”.

Brand Rishi back in glitzy pre-Budget video

While full details will be unveiled in the Commons on Wednesday, Sunak took to social media to post a six minute “glitzy pre-Budget video” to mark his first year as chancellor, which the Mail described as heralding the “return of Brand Rishi”.

However, the video has not gone down well with everyone. David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham tweeted: “It is surreal how smug Rishi Sunak is in this despite the fact that under his stewardship the U.K. has endured the worst economic crisis of any major economy. It’s like the Captain of the Titanic producing a five minute showreel of his ‘best bits’.”

Elsewhere on Twitter, the account for the long running BBC One satirical TV show Have I Got News For You posted: “Rishi Sunak set to announce £400m for the arts sector – £390m of which will cover the cost of promotional videos for Rishi Sunak.”

Chancellor confesses he’s a Coke addict and likes Mexican type the best

In another video posted on social media, Sunak declares: “I’m a Coke addict.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this declaration has cut through more than his six minute promo, and has gone viral even though the coke referred to is, of course, Coca-Cola.

In the clip Sunak tells two schoolboys – and everyone else watching the clip – that he has seven fillings to show for his addiction before confessing his favourite type is Mexican coke – “special coke” says Sunak, explaining it’s the only one made with cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup.”

PM and fiancée spend £100k to refurbish flat

Sunak’s apparent ‘Coke’ slip-up has served to take some of the attention away from a Daily Mail story claiming the prime minister and his fiancée Carrie Symonds have spent over £100,000 redecorating the flat at Number 11 Downing Street.

The Mail asserts claims that Johnson is “secretly trying to set up a charity to help pay for a costly makeover of his official flat by his fiancée”, emulating the US White House model and “expected to be funded largely by wealthy Tory benefactors.”

The Guardian reports that a spokesperson for Number 10 would not deny the Mail’s report adding that “Symonds is understood to have undertaken a substantial redecoration of the flat above No 11” and that “Johnson is known to have joked with Conservative MPs about the cost of the refurbishment.”

The Mail claims the PM has complained the refurbishment was “totally out of control” and said its cost was “over a hundred grand”. After being informed by the Cabinet Office that the maximum taxpayer contribution was “around £30,000” Johnson is alleged to have said there was “no way” he could pay for it.”

The idea of setting up a charity to pay for the refurbishment came after Johnson discussed the possibility of asking Conservative party backers to pay for it, but that raised ethical questions.

Cameron spent £100k, Blair spent £127k on the same flat

The flat above No 11 Downing Street – the chancellor’s official residence – is larger than No 10’s flat, and is therefore preferred by prime ministers with families

David Cameron and his wife Samantha are said to have spent £100,000 refurbishing the flat when he was PM from 2010-16, while official records show Tony Blair’s occupancy of the flat above No 11 saw £127,000 spent on refurbishments between 1999 and 2005.

Regarding the latest of the refits and redecorations, a friend of Symonds, quoted by the Mail, said: “The makeover is appropriate for a building of such huge importance…Carrie has exquisite taste. It is classic, stunning, stylish and chic. She should be congratulated not criticised.”

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