The Bank of England has this morning announced an emergency cut in interest rates in a bid to shore up the faltering economy hit by the gathering coronavirus outbreak.

Rates have this morning been slashed from 0.75% to 0.25%, bringing borrowing costs back down to the lowest levels in history, according to the BBC.

The move comes ahead of today’s budget, where new chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak is expected to deliver further measures designed to stimulate growth and ease the building pressure on businesses grappling with the burgeoning spread of coronavirus.

The Bank of England said the changes would free up an additional £190bn for banks to lend to businesses.

A spokesperson said the package would “help UK businesses and households bridge the economic disruption that is likely to be associated” with coronavirus. “These measures will help to keep firms in business and people in jobs and help prevent a temporary disruption from causing longer-lasting economic harm”.

The news will bring relief to UK retail businesses, but more is expected of Sunak’s first budget.

On February 13, more than 50 retail chief executives wrote to then chancellor Sajid Javid, calling on him to take urgent action on business rates reforms and removing downwards phasing of transitional relief.

Then in early March, a number of business leaders, including representatives from the British Retail Consortium wrote to Sunak urging him to remove the need for business rates to be fiscally neutral, reform the Valuation Office Agency and remove provisions which “penalise” businesses for modernising stores.

On Monday, shopworkers’ union Usdaw joined the chorus of voices calling for reform by asking the chancellor to ‘Save our Shops’.

Budget: ‘Fundamental’ review of business rates to be completed by autumn