Budget Briefings: 10 Things Rishi Sunak Wants You Talking About Before Wednesday

The public have been treated to a flurry of announcements and policy previews ahead of this week’s budget and spending review. 

But as experts point out, we cannot begin to understand their significance until full details are announced on Wednesday. 

It is only then that number crunchers can start contextualising all the glossy promises. 

HuffPost UK will be there to guide you through the budget and spending review that will be delivered in the House of Commons from 12.30pm.

Here, we give you a round-up of everything that has officially been announced as well as hints briefed to the media.

1) Minimum Wage & Public Sector Pay 

A major announcement we know will be in Wednesday’s budget is a boost to the minimum wage.  

Sunak will use his budget to bump it from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour. The treasury says this equates to an extra £1,000 a year for a full-time worker.

The minimum wage for people aged 21-22 will rise from £8.36 to £9.18 an hour and the apprentice rate increases from £4.30 to £4.81 an hour.

However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank has said the living wage rise increase will be blunted by inflation hikes. Senior research economist Tom Waters said those on universal credit will see their disposable income go up by just £250 because their taxes rise and benefit receipt falls as their earnings increase.

He also said minimum wage was a “very imperfect tool” to offset cuts to benefits and rising inflation will blunt the real-terms value of such a minimum wage hike.

The Sun newspaper also revealed that Sunak plans to end the public sector pay freeze. Last year public sector pay rises were “paused” due to the pandemic, except in the NHS and for workers on less than £24,000 who got a small rise.

Both changes would mean nearly five million Brits will get a pay rise.

2) Health

Monday morning’s big announcement was £5.9 billion more cash to tackle the NHS backlog. 

Sunak called it “game-changing” and said it would be used to help clear the immense queue of people waiting for tests and scans as well as purchase equipment and improve IT. However, health experts warn it will not solve the the problem of staff shortages.

The funding comes on top of the £12 billion a year investment in health and social care, due to be paid for by hiking national insurance.

Separately, the department for health and social care will receive £5 billion over the next three years for research and development, including into genome sequencing to detect rare diseases.

3) Transport

As part of the government’s so-called “levelling up” agenda, £6.9 billion is coming down the line to upgrade stations, boost tram networks, bus services and improve journey times.

However, Sunak admitted on Sunday that only a fraction of the headline figure is new spending – with the rest all previous announcements.

Among the projects are improvements to the A61 between Wakefield and Leeds, new Metrolink trams for Manchester and revamped stations in Darlington, Middlesbrough, Liverpool and Runcorn.

4) Babies

Sunak is set to invest £500 billion to help babies and parents with a network of more than 75 hubs where they can access services such as breastfeeding support.

Labour has described the hubs as a “pale imitation” of New Labour’s Sure Start centres.

However, Tory MP Andrea Leadsom, who has been campaigning for investment, said the joined up support services were essential to give children “the best start”.

5) Skills

Skills are big on the government’s promise list, with £3 billion of investment set for post-16 education and adults later in life.

The money is expected to go towards skills boot camps in areas including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and nuclear. 

Sunak said the money would help drive productivity to achieve Boris Johnson’s aim of a high-wage, high-skill post-Brexit economy.

6) Culture & Sport

Another “levelling-up” pledge is set to come in the form of £700 million for 8,000 new sports pitches and clubhouses. 

Up to 300 youth facilities, which could include scout huts, youth centres and activity centres, will also be built or refurbished in the most deprived areas.

Sunak pitched the boost as the government backing the “next generation of Ward-Prowses and Raducanus”.

Separately, £850 million is earmarked to “revive” cultural and heritage hotspots in England. Those set for a cash injection include the Tate, V&A, Imperial War Museum and British Museum. As part of this, £42 million will go towards reviving high streets by repairing old buildings.  

7) Education

It is feared education could be one of the losers in this budget, with reports suggesting Nadhim Zahawi will get nowhere near the £7 billion requested by his predecessor Gavin Williamson.

However, adult education is set for a new £560 million injection to pay for a “Multiply” programme to provide personalised maths coaching for half a million people across the UK. It will aim to improve basic numeracy through free personal tutoring, digital training and flexible courses.

8) Crime

The chancellor is promising £435 million for crime prevention, better CCTV, improved street lighting and support for victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

He is expected to earmark £80 million for the Crown Prosecution Service which will be expected to improve the way it deals with rape cases and increase prosecutions.

Earlier this year ministers have said they felt “deeply ashamed” of low conviction rates for rape cases in England and Wales.

Former justice secretary Robert Buckland apologised to victims and promised to “do a lot better”.

9) Borders

In a bid to get tough on border control, more than £700m will be spent over the next three years to boost security. 

Old border force vessels are set to be replaced by new cutters as part of the investment.

Under the plan to “modernise and digitalise the border” there is also a proposal for a US-style electronic travel authorisation for tourists wishing to come to the UK.

10) Homes

The spending review is expected to provide nearly £2 billion to turn brownfield land into thousands of new homes. 

The government said 160,000 greener homes could be built on brownfield land the size of 2,000 football pitches.

It also pledged to invest £9 million towards 100 urban “pocket parks” across the UK.

However, the criticism persists that still not enough genuinely affordable homes are being built.

The blitz of billion pound announcements might have secured Sunak days of relatively positive media headlines, the real detail is yet to come. 

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “We’ve seen a weekend full of treasury smoke and mirrors ahead of the budget – with a government that would rather re-announce plans than get the work done.”

And as Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, points out: “You basically need to wait until Wednesday to have any idea what they mean (ie what’s already been announced, what is happening to the departmental budgets they sit inside).”

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