‘A New Age Of Optimism’: 19 Things To Expect In Rishi Sunak’s Budget

Rishi Sunak will “unveil” his Budget on Wednesday – but the chancellor’s tax and spending plans have already been heavily trailed days before they were to be presented to parliament.

The number of briefings may have annoyed the Commons authorities, but the Treasury press office has continued to dash off details of a string of policies determining how taxpayers’ money will be spent.

On the eve of his statement to MPs, Sunak said his Budget would ushering in a “new economy” after the coronavirus pandemic as he confirmed billions of pounds of funding for the NHS and wage rises for millions of workers.

In his speech, Sunak is expected to say: “Today’s Budget begins the work of preparing for a new economy post-Covid.

“An economy of higher wages, higher skills, and rising productivity of strong public services, vibrant communities and safer streets.

“An economy fit for a new age of optimism. That is the stronger economy of the future.”

While the emphasis will be on the lavish spending, critics will question just how much his Budget will help workers, with National Insurance rising 1.25% and the cut to Universal Credit as inflation rises.

These are the announcements to expect to hear about:

More NHS funding

Sunak will confirm a further £5.9 billion in capital funding to help the NHS clear the backlog created by Covid-19. That cash comes on top of £12 billion announced last month.

The NHS has a waiting list of 5.7 million people at the moment, but it is estimated it could grow as high as at least 7 million.

The latest funding will also be spent on capital investment on physical items such as beds, IT equipment and scanners.

Public pay freeze scrapped

The Chancellor is due to announce that the 12-month public sector pay freeze is to end, paving the way for more than five million workers to potentially receive a pay rise next year.

Sunak in November announced pay restraint for police, teachers and other frontline workers between April 2021 and March 2022, with the exception of the NHS and workers earning less than £24,000, following heavy government borrowing during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Treasury chief, in an announcement on Monday evening, said the freeze could be lifted due to the the economy being “firmly back on track” after the lifting of virus restrictions.

Minimum wage rise

Around two million workers will get a pay rise next year when the National Living Wage is increased from £8.91 an hour to £9.50.

The Treasury confirmed on Monday that the increase for all over-23s will take place on April 1.

The 59p hourly boost will mean a full-time worker on the living wage will get a pay rise of more than £1,000 per year, according to the government.

‘Levelling up’ transport

The Treasury said nearly £7 billion would be given to areas such as Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and South Yorkshire for projects ranging from tram improvements to introducing London-style improvements in infrastructure, fares and services.

Some £5.7 billion will be five-year transport settlements for the regions, while £1.2 billion of new funding will go towards transforming bus services to deliver London-style journey times, fares and number of services.

Digital overhaul for the NHS

A £6 billion package of funding will help tackle NHS backlogs and invest in technology and data in a bid to improve efficiency and security within the health service.

The Treasury said the £5.9 billion funding is on top of the government’s plan to spend £8 billion to tackle the elective backlog over the next three years, and the £97 billion additional funding the government has provided to support health and care since the start of the pandemic.

Health research and development

The Department of Health and Social Care will receive £5 billion over the next three years to fund research and development in areas such as genome sequencing and tackling health inequalities.

Part of the package will include genome technology to allow doctors to detect more than 200 conditions in babies, compared with existing tests which can only identify nine.

Some £95 million of the funding will go towards the Office for Life Sciences to help with cutting-edge innovations to help treat cancer, obesity and mental ill health.

A ‘skills revolution’

A cash injection of £3 billion will be given to both post-16 education but also to adults later in life.

Sunak will announce the number of skills boot camps in areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and nuclear will be quadrupled.

Some £1.6 billion will provide up to 100,000 16 to 19-year-olds studying for T-levels – technical-based qualifications – with additional classroom hours, while 24,000 traineeships will also be created.

Funding for special educational needs and disabilities

New school places for children with disabilities and special educational needs will be created with a £2.6 billion pot.

Sunak is expected to almost triple the amount of this year’s capital funding for the most disadvantaged young people through specialised educational support, with up to 30,000 new spots made available.

Housing on brownfield sites

The Treasury said a £1.8 billion package of investment would help regenerate land and level up the country.

Sunak will allocate £65 million to ramp up England’s planning system, including digitisation that will make local plans easier to access and £9 million to help local authorities create 100 new urban “pocket parks” across UK.

Global Britain Investment Fund

The £1.4 billion fund will funnel money into key innovative sectors by handing out grants to encourage internationally mobile companies to invest in the UK’s critical industries, including life sciences and automotive.

The fund includes £354 million to support investment in life sciences manufacturing, increasing resilience for future pandemics, and more than £800 million investment in the production and supply chain of electric vehicles, including in the North East and Midlands.

A new talent network to attract high-skilled workers to the UK will also be set up in innovation hotspots, first in the Bay Area of San Francisco and Boston in the US in 2022, and also Bengaluru in India.

Boost for museums and galleries

Over three years, £850 million will “breathe life” back into cultural hotspots. The money will be used to restore and upgrade some of the country’s most popular institutions such as London’s V&A museum, Tate Liverpool and the Imperial War Museum in Duxford.

A total of £125 million will go towards helping build a state-of-the-art scientific research centre in Oxfordshire, part of the Natural History Museum.

In addition, more than £75 million will be spent to help 110 regional museums and libraries improve their buildings and level up their digital facilities, the Treasury said.

Protection at the border

Ageing Border Force vessels will be replaced by new cutters as part of a £700 million investment to improve the safety of Britain’s borders.

The current fleet, which is 20 years old, will be retired and 11 new vessels will come into service to help tackle organised crime and illegal migration at a cost of £74 million.

The announcement also includes £628 million “to modernise and digitalise the border”, with proposals including a US-style Electronic Travel Authorisation for tourists wishing to come to the UK.

Finding the next Emma Raducanu

Football pitches, tennis courts and youth facilities will see £700 million of funding to help foster the next generation of young talent.

Maths coaching

Up to 500,000 adults will be able to access a £560 million scheme to improve their maths skills, as it was revealed more than eight million people in England have numeracy skills lower than those expected of a nine-year-old, with the North East, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber worst affected.

Sunak will say that through the Multiply programme, people can access free personal tutoring, digital training and flexible courses.

The new Sure Start?

The Chancellor will announce a range of investments to give children the “best possible start in life” totalling £500 million towards support for families and children, including new family hubs.

Labour has criticised the plans and said it was a mistake to close Sure Start centres, which provided similar services.

Sunak said the new scheme was different.

Crime prevention

A £435 million package of measures aimed at preventing crime will form part of next week’s Budget – with a focus on violent offences against women.

The Chancellor is expected to pledge millions for better CCTV and improved street lighting and give £80 million in additional funding to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Treasury said part of this funding will “improve the response to rape and sexual assault cases”.

Dragons’ Den-style investors

Angel investors will be made available to businesses outside of London and the South East.

A £150 million pot of funding for the British Business Bank will encourage the development of regional networks of Dragons’ Den-style angel investors to help make people’s dreams of starting a business a reality.

Cutting-edge treatment for veterans

Innovative surgery which allows artificial limbs to be permanently fixed to bones could be available for veterans through research grants handed out by a new fund.

Some £5 million will be put towards a new UK-wide Veterans’ Health Innovation Fund at the Budget and spending review on Wednesday.

The fund would be able to award research grants to develop new surgery techniques and treatment options for amputees and blast victims.

Post-Brexit tax rule changes

Tax changes will be introduced to try to tempt more of the world’s largest shipping companies to UK shores.

Ships that fly the Union Jack and those which help the UK reach net zero will both be more likely to be accepted if applying to the UK’s tonnage tax regime.

Sunak will deliver his Budget and spending review to the Commons on Wednesday.

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