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JEFF PRESTRIDGE: We all have to do our bit for the economy

JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Chancellor Rishi Sunak did his bit to save the economy, now we all have to do ours too

No one can blame the government – and Chancellor Rishi Sunak in particular – for doing everything to prevent an economic massacre that none of us have ever witnessed in our lives. But unless the country’s collective mindset changes quickly, I fear the worst.

At a rapid pace, we end up in an economic catastrophe, in part because most of us are too scared to leave the safety of our home – an occasional trip to the nearest supermarket. We have turned our houses into our prisons instead of our castles.

For those who still have a job, we would rather work from the comfort of our home than return to our workplace. Many seniors, meanwhile, remain too scared to venture far from their front doors.

Tied up for cash: While Rishi Sunak may come up with more money, at some point he will have to draw a line in the sand

Tied up for cash: While Rishi Sunak may come up with more money, at some point he will have to draw a line in the sand

As a result, as a nation, we don’t spend money on public transportation, no fuel in our cars – or in stores near us or on the high street and out of our wallets. The economy literally dies under our feet.

I see evidence of this every working day. The trains that transport me to and from my home in Royal Berkshire are like ghost trains – I enjoy my own carriage at the moment – while London’s Kensington High Street (my workplace) resembles a shadow of the past. Only TK Maxx seems to thrive, with queues sometimes extending to the borders of Kensington Gardens some 100 yards away.

Overall, it’s all kind of creepy and a little bit scary. It is as if we have entered our collective shells without realizing the economic consequences of our weakening of the shutters.

Last Wednesday’s mini budget was, of course, Rishi’s last attempt to revive the economy, avoid a job bloodbath, and avert the terrifying recession that I think is heading our way.

Following on from his previous package of government-backed business loans and the friendly leave arrangement, he was generous and announced a series of measures to encourage companies to create jobs – and keep employees.

As my colleague Sarah Bridge reports the opposite, the £ 30 billion package has been welcomed by many small businesses, especially those active in the hospitality sector, which will also benefit from lower VAT rates and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which is designed to impose cheating seats in pubs and restaurants.

The stamp duty exemption on home purchases up to £ 500,000 was also justly received warmly, although it is doubtful whether the move will prevent a correction in house prices. Unemployment, or fear of it, will suppress demand.

Anecdotally, asking prices for houses in Wokingham (where I live) have plummeted over the past month, and I can’t imagine it’s due to local factors (it’s a prosperous city).

Unfortunately, the task faced by the chancellor is almost impossible. Every business support measure it introduces is followed by calls for even more public support.

In the wake of Wednesday’s mini budget, it was the turn of the self-employed, retailers, and pub owners who only serve drinks to argue for more financial support.

While Rishi may come up with more money, at some point he will have to draw a line in the sand or the country’s finances will be compromised. While some readers may disagree, it is certainly now time for the nation to return to an almost “normal” state.

That means going back to work. It means eating out (go ahead and take advantage of Eat Out to help) and spend some of the money we huddled in lockdown.

Yes, there is the real fear of a second wave of Covid-19 – and we must do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen. But we just need to save our economy from a meltdown. Please do your part.

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While understandably distracted lately, Rishi hopes he doesn’t keep his promise to keep cash an important part of our society. He must look west for guidance.

The US has just introduced a “payment choice law” that prohibits companies from refusing to accept cash from customers. What a great idea.