Earlier this month, the UK Treasury pre-announced more than £30 billion ($41 billion) in spending related to crime-fighting, housebuilding, health service, skills, and transport ahead of the chancellor’s Autumn Budget speech on Wednesday.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to use his Budget and Spending Review later on Wednesday to declare that Britain is entering a new economic stage, The Guardian has reported.
According to his speech seen by the newspaper, Sunak will underscore that the budget’s goal is to aid in creating a post-COVID economic environment in Britain.
“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”, the chancellor will reportedly say.
He is expected to add that it will be “an economy fit for a new age of optimism. That is the stronger economy of the future”.
With the Treasury already issuing 19 press releases to pre-announce a bevy of spending measures worth £30 billion ($41 billion) ahead of Sunak’s budget statement, the chancellor will most likely announce on Wednesday a flagship measure to shore up families affected by the £1,000 ($1,377) cut to universal credit.
The pre-announced measures by the Treasury earlier this month included allocating £5.9 billion ($8.1 billion) to help clear the National Health Service (NHS) backlog in England, £2.6 billion ($3.5 billion) for special needs school places, £6.9 billion ($9.5 billion) for non-London transport as well as £3 billion ($4.1 billion) for skills and £5 billion ($6.8 billion) for health research and development.
In the Budget and Spending Review speech, Sunak may also support Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s previous claims that Britain is on its way to a new economic model.
Sunak will reportedly echo Johnson’s remarks that creating such a model is an imperative given that the UK currently faces post-Brexit labour shortages, which have led to fuel and food delivery issues.
Torsten Bell, the chief executive of the independent British think tank Resolution Foundation, remained downbeat about the country’s second budget of 2021, arguing that the UK was facing an “age of uncertainty, not an age of optimism”.
“The place we are at is coming out of a recession but going into a cost of living crunch. The country is looking for is a resolution of the uncertainty of the [COVID-19] pandemic but the budget is not going to be able to provide that”, he told The Guardian.
The view was shared by Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, who described Britain as “an optimistic country”, but added that “it’s hard to be optimistic when your children are missing out on school, energy bills are through the roof, and the NHS is on its knees”.
The remarks followed Sunak being under fire over UK media reports that he would not announce a cut to the value added tax (VAT) on household energy bills in his Budget and Spending Review.
The Daily Mail cited unnamed sources as saying that the chancellor had ruled out slashing the duty on home fuel bills because he believes it would be “poorly targeted” and result in “subsidising thousands of well-off households and not providing enough help to those who most need it”.