Our Response to the Spring Budget
The United Kingdom needs a budget focused on how to mobilise and equip millions of Britons, along with government and business, to get ahead. While the turmoil of the past four years makes the idea of delivering a "stability budget" of familiar, incremental incentives and nudges a tempting one, this week’s budget should look beyond the standard toolbox of half-measures and short-termist policies. Micromanagement of spending on science, technology and broader economic innovations wastes taxpayer money and is beginning to hamper the UK's ability to compete on a global stage. We must make bold changes to the way our national resources are allocated if the UK is ever to become the next Silicon Valley.
Below, our experts assess how Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's spring budget measures up to these challenges.
Growth – Jeegar Kakkad
The budget included some welcome supply-side reforms to support the economy, in particular on investment allowances to support business investment and extending free childcare. But the long-term challenges of the country remain, and we need to move quickly to radically reshape the state and ensure the UK leads a new era of innovation and investment.
Labour-Market Participation – James Browne
Reforms in the budget to disability benefits, including scrapping the bureaucratic Work Capability Assessment, make sense in principle, but the devil will be in the detail to ensure the long-term sick have the support they need to get back to work. Longer term, we need to rethink our approach to education and skills to ensure that the UK labour force turns the artificial intelligence (AI) and climate revolutions into opportunities.
Childcare – James Scales
Extending free childcare to 1- and 2-year-olds is the right thing to do. The next step on the road to universal childcare must be deeper reforms of the childcare market that improve the quality and quantity of provision. Getting to universal childcare will help give kids the best start to life and help give parents more choice about returning to work.
Net Zero – Tone Langengen
It is good that the government is taking seriously the value of clean technology to the UK’s future growth and prosperity and energy security. However, beyond announcements on carbon-capture technology and nuclear, there were few details about the promised response to the US Inflation Reduction Act and EU Net Zero Industry Act.
It will be important that the UK learns the right lessons from the Inflation Reduction Act – we cannot compete on scale of investment but need to focus on the underlying enablers that will help drive clean-tech investment such as fixing our planning system, bolstering our electricity grid and ensuring quick and easy access to finance. We cannot compete with the US and EU on scale, but we can turn our smaller size into a strength that allows us to be more agile and act quickly and decisively to support clean technology.
Health – Martin Carkett
The government announced some sensible measures today, but clearly health was not a priority in this budget, despite the chancellor’s former role as health secretary. Supporting SME’s to provide better health provisions for employees, additional funding for mental health and musculoskeletal services and more money for public pools and leisure centres are all helpful, but none will turn the tide.
More notable was what was not said in relation to ending NHS staff industrial action, on the long-awaited NHS workforce plan and missed the opportunity to significantly boost preventative health measures. We are still seeing more than 800 excess deaths a week in the UK and well over 2 million people in the labour force remain economically inactive due to ill health. Health needs to be higher up the government’s agenda and list of spending priorities, and should be a cornerstone of any comprehensive growth strategy.