Cash for the National Health Service—and new grammar schoolsby Alex Dean / March 7, 2017 / Leave a comment
Philip Hammond is expected to unveil a £1.3bn boost for the NHS tomorrow, along with £320m for new schools—including grammars.
In his first Budget since becoming Chancellor—and his second major fiscal statement—Hammond is likely unveil an extra £1.3bn to fund social care. The Sun reports that the extra money is seen by the government as a short-term solution, while more permanent fixes to the NHS’s cash crisis are considered.
The Financial Times reports that the move will be funded by a 3p increase in the national insurance rate paid by the self-employed.
The government will also invest £320m in the free schools programme, paving the way for new grammars: if government legislation passes, they will be free to offer selective education. A further £216m will be spent on improving existing school infrastructure.
An extra £500m a year is to be spent on skills training for 16 to 19-year-olds. Students on higher technical education courses will be eligible for maintenance loans under the new reforms, while the technical education system overall will be streamlined.
The Chancellor will also allocate more than £500m from the National Productivity Investment Fundfor research into new technologies, notably in artificial intelligence. As part of this, £200m will be spent on fellowships aligned to the government’s Industrial Strategy, while £90m will fund extra PhD places in STEM disciplines. Plans will be announced for the roll out of 5G mobile technology.
The government will crack down on “misleading” small print, while £20m will be spent on a new D-Day memorial on the Normandy beaches. £5m will be spent on projects that celebrate the right of women to vote: it is nearly 100 years since the Representation of the People Act, which enfranchised some women. Universal suffrage was granted ten years later.
In the run-up to Wednesday’s event, the government has also come under heavy pressure to lessen the impact of business rate hikes on firms. The British Chambers of Commerce has said there is an “urgent need” for action—though it is as yet unclear whether Hammond will respond.
The Office for Budget Responsibility, the government’s fiscal watchdog, will share its latest forecasts for UK growth, borrowing and inflation tomorrow. The slow onset of any harmful “Brexit effect” means that growth forecasts are likely to be revised upwards, while borrowing forecasts will come down.
The news will delight the government, and comes just weeks before May’s self-imposed March deadline for the triggering of Article 50. It is already riding high in the polls, with a lead of 17 per cent over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party according to a recent YouGov survey.
The spring Budget is not only Hammond’s first—it will be his last. In 2016, he announced that the Autumn Statement would be replaced with an Autumn Budget in 2017, while in 2018 a Spring Statement will come into effect. Spring Statements will include updates on growth figures, but it is thought that they will not be used to announce significant policy changes.