The 2021 Budget So Far
October 27, 2021.
The Treasury has heavily pre-briefed this year’s Budget, with more than a dozen major proposals already released to the press. Here’s the run-down on what Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s department has already announced – with £24bn in spending allocated so far.
More than five million public sector workers including nurses and teachers are due to get a pay rise after Sunak decided to lift his pandemic-based freeze on wage increases. Questions remain over whether the wage increase will surpass, or at least match inflation, which the Bank of England predicts could reach 5%. Unions have already said it will be a real-terms pay cut if the pay rise doesn't match inflation. Small business minister Paul Scully said he couldn’t guarantee that it would be higher than inflation. Between 2013 and 2017, pay awards were limited to an average of one percent per year while last year there was a one-year pay freeze except for NHS workers earning below £24,000. The UK’s lowest-paid workers will also receive a pay rise next year when the National Living Wage increases from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour - a 6.6% rise. It also goes up for those aged 21 to 22 to £9.18 and to £4.81 for an Apprentice Rate.
To clear the significant backlog in the NHS in England, the Treasury has pledged to set aside £5.9 billion in providing for non-emergency tests and procedures. From this budget there will be £2.3 billion for at least 100 community diagnostic centres which can run clinical tests like MRIs, ultrasounds, and CT scans. Some of these are set to be in community settings like supermarkets, sports stadiums and in retail parks.
There will also be £1.5 billion on new beds and surgery hubs across the country, which could run up to four operating theatres at any one time, and £2.1 billion to improve IT. There will also be an additional £5 billion for health-related research and development, including money for Genomics England to create ‘Generation Genome,’ a national pilot of sequencing to detect rare diseases in 100,000 newborns.
Wales gets £130 million to help small and medium sized businesses grow as part of the Treasury’s claim it is ‘levelling up’ opportunities across the UK. Scotland is to get £150 million for a new growth fund for business and Northern Ireland gets another £70 million to build on the programmes it already has on the ground. The money will be delivered through the British Business bank. Another £150 million of funding goes towards setting up regional networks of ‘angel investors’ operating outside of London and the South East, while £1.4 billion goes into the Global Britain Investment Fund that will provide grants to encourage internationally mobile companies to invest in the UK in life sciences and automotive sectors.
The Treasury is billing its £6.9 billion "local transport revolution" as part of their levelling up vision and Sunak announced he was putting £5.7 billion into sustainable transport in city regions, and £1.2 billion of new funding into bus services in yet-to-be announced locations. The city settlements include Greater Manchester (£1.07billion), West Yorkshire (£830 million), South Yorkshire (£570 million), West Midlands (£1.05 billion), Tees Valley (£310 million), West of England (£540 million) and Liverpool City Region (£710 million).
An example of the investment in South Yorkshire and the West Midlands will be an expansion of the tram network. Critics were quick to point out that for the city transport improvements, only £1.5 billion is brand new money as £4.2 billion was already announced as part of City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements.
There will be £3 billion for post-16 education which fits in with the Chancellor’s wider Plans for Jobs policy and the Prime Minister's pledge to focus on skills. This new injection of money will quadruple the number of places on skills bootcamps, fund additional classroom hours for up to 100,000 16 to 19-year-olds studying T-levels and create 24,000 traineeships, according to the government.
A total of £830 million will be allocated to revitalising existing colleges in England, and further funding will secure top of the range equipment and facilities to ensure that young people taking T Levels have the industry level skills they need. The National Skills Fund will get £550 million to make sure adults, at any age can learn new skills.
In a clear reversal of some of former Chancellor George Osborne's austerity measures, there will be £500 million for children and families, including £82 million to set up family hubs in 75 new council areas, £100 million to support the mental health of new and expectant parents and £120 million investment towards family support programmes. The family hub model will be all-in-one facilities that can support parenting, breastfeeding which gets £50 million and provide mental health support.
Labour's shadow child poverty spokesperson Wes Streeting highlighted that the one-stop-shop Sure Start centres set up under Labour suffered significant cut backs under the Conservatives, while there has also been criticism from the childcare sector that money would be better invested in the free 15- and 30-hour childcare entitlements. The new funding implements recommendations set out in former secretary of state Andrea Leadsom MP’s recent Early Years Healthy Development Review which found that the first 1001 days of a child’s life are critical for their emotional and physical health.
Cutting crime in England and Wales gets a £355 million spend in the Budget, with £50 million of this going towards tackling neighbourhood crimes through the Safer Streets Fund - including improved street lighting and better CCTV. The Crown Prosecution Service gets £80 million, with a focus on improving the response to rape and sexual violence cases. Scotland and Northern Ireland are to get Barnett consequential spending.
The Treasury hopes to give a boost to house building by encouraging construction on derelict and unused land through a £1.8 billion regeneration investment. They hope that there's a transformation of brownfield land the equivalent of 2,000 football pitches in towns and cities across England and hope to deliver infrastructure including transport links, schools and new community spaces, supporting 50,000 jobs.
A UK-wide Veterans Health Innovation Fund will get £5 billion to go towards treatments for former members of the armed forces who have suffered injuries or experience mental health challenges and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A £703 million security package to protect the UK’s borders will include £74 million to replace the country’s ageing fleet of patrol boats known as ‘cutters’ with 11 fuel efficient vessels. To modernise and digitalise border arrangements, £628 million will be invested to improve waiting times, streamline border entry and visa process and bolster security.
Unusually, this year’s Budget has its own slick black and white logo which led to speculation that this might be the work of digital communications guru Cass Horowitz, a special adviser to the Chancellor.
© Kate Proctor / PoliticsHome 2021
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