Charities, think tanks and other organisations have called for Philip Hammond to address issues ranging from Universal Credit to mental health funding in this Autumn’s budget.
The Chancellor is walking a political tightrope between those who are pressuring him to end austerity and those who believe the job of getting the UK’s finances back on track is not yet finished.
Some have speculated that Hammond will favour a “safety-first” Budget, with many suspecting there will be few headline-grabbing giveaways.
Despite this, charities and think tanks have spoken about what they’d like to see in Wednesday’s Budget. These include:
Chris Ham, from health charity the King’s Fund, claims that the government must find more funding to prevent near-irreversible damage being done to the health service.
He argues that the £4 billion in 2018/19 as a down-payment on meeting a funding gap estimated at £20 billion by 2022/23 - based on current spending plans - would demonstrate that the NHS “really is safe in this government’s hands”.
He added: “A former Conservative Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, famously said that to govern is to choose.
“For Philip Hammond, the moment of choice is approaching rapidly, and on this occasion it will have far reaching implications both for the government and for the public for whom the NHS remains a treasured institution.”
In a blog on HuffPost UK, Phillip Connolly, policy and development manager at Disability Rights UK, describes what would make the difference between a good Budget and a great Budget when it comes to disability.
He urged a reduction in the six week waiting period for Universal Credit applications and to reduce to a fortnight the time period for being paid in arrears.
Connolly wrote: “Good is when everyone’s rights to basic needs such as an adequate income is safeguarded. Great is when we don’t just spend the country’s wealth fairly but we create it fairly too. Good is when we enable all to participate. Great is when we devote effort to supporting everyone to make a contribution, and give more effort to those who are further behind.
“Disabled people are an obvious group to deliver a good, or even better, a great budget for. Half of all households living in poverty has a disabled person living in them. It is not surprising therefore, that two in every three users of food banks are also disabled people.
“A good budget would be ending the exclusion from work of the one million disabled people the Government has targeted through measures such as defining and delivering inclusive apprenticeship. A great budget would be opening up the economy to even more disabled candidates. Good procurement is ensuring that successful bidders for government contracts operate inclusive recruitment and retention policies but great is when the contractors can report on the numbers they employ and set targets to increase those numbers in proportion with the opportunity afforded by winning the contract.
“Good is providing support to business but great is when the Government can target that support to disabled entrepreneurs and inventors.”
Sebastian Klier, from Generation Rent, is welcoming the Chancellor’s commitment over the weekend to building 300,000 homes per year, as well as measures in the Budget including an inquiry into land banking and a commitment of £5 billion to support smaller builders.
However, he is also urging Hammond to address policy when it comes to those who rent property, strengthening tenancies to protect renters from eviction as well as providing the opportunity to live in their property for longer.
In a blog on HuffPost UK, he wrote: “However many new homes we build, private renters aren’t going away and they need policies that directly benefit them now.
“The sooner we start to reform the private rented sector alongside building more homes, the sooner we’ll be making progress towards a genuine, joined-up and long-term housing strategy from government.”
Andy Bell, deputy chief executive at the Centre for Mental Health, is calling for fairer funding for mental health services within the NHS, particularly for children’s services.
Bell welcomed last year’s pledge to spend an extra £1 billion on mental health services by 2020/21, as well as a promise to spend £1.4 billion spread over five years (2015-2020) to improve children and young people’s mental health services.
But, in a blog on HuffPost UK, he said that it was vital that fund earmarked for these purposes be protected.
“A Budget for better mental health would also seek to ensure that schools had the right help and support to build children’s emotional health and wellbeing – from training teachers to be more confident talking about mental health to providing counselling and other support services when students (or staff) need them,” he wrote.
“It would take concerted action on race equality in mental health.
“It would take steps to boost employment support for people with mental health difficulties, moving closer to evidence-based help and away from the use of conditions and sanctions.
“It would ensure people with mental health difficulties who rely on social security benefits had enough money coming in to live on.
“And it would invest urgently in mental health support throughout the criminal justice system, including prisons and probation, and for people held in immigration detention.”
Social policy research and development charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has insisted that improving living standards must be at the heart of the Budget.
The foundation is calling on Hammond to use the Autumn statement to “prioritise those who are struggling to make ends meet”.
It wants to see family income supported, as well as more investment in genuinely affordable housing.
In a blog on HuffPost UK, JRF policy and research manager Katie Schmuecker, said: “In a time of limited resources, it is essential that support is targeted at those that need it the most.
“The Budget is an opportunity for the Government to show that they really are on the side of the just about managing.”
For the National Union of Students, it is imperative that Hammond thinks about what will actually make a practical difference to those in higher education.
In a blog on HuffPost UK, NUS vice president for welfare Izzy Lenga explained: “The Chancellor needs to think very carefully about the offer he makes to young people. There are a number of things he could do, such as cutting interest rates on student loan repayments, which would appease some critics but would make a negligible difference to real students’ lives.
“If the conservatives truly want to show that they are in touch with young voters, they need to steer away from empty gestures and address the most urgent needs faced by students and young people.”
Lenga said the most pressing issue facing students was living standards, with many forced into atrocious conditions through lack of funding.
She said: “I know students who spend time in the library simply to stay warm, because they can’t afford to turn the heating on at home. I know students who limit showers to two minutes to cut back on water costs. I regularly speak to students who live in damp, mouldy, freezing cold houses, who work night shifts and then have to drag themselves in to lectures the next day.
“I myself worked night shifts during university and I can assure you - I did not do that to fund an extravagant lifestyle, I did it to fund the basic living costs that were not covered by my maintenance loan.”
The National Education Union is calling for schools to be allocated the funding they need in Wednesday’s Budget.
In a blog on HuffPost UK, Kevin Courtney, the union’s joint general secretary, said: “Failure to do so will have the same consequences at the ballot box in next year’s May local elections as was seen in the General Election.”
He particularly pinpointed class size as something which will particularly suffer without adequate funding.
Courtney said: “It is funding in real terms, not in cash terms, which is the key factor in determining what happens over time on issues such as class size.
“The school funding crisis is real.
“While the additional £1.3billion funding for schools over the course of the next two years is welcome, it will not reverse the effective £2.8billion real terms cut in the value of their funding caused by the pressures of inflation and cost increases since 2015.”
Many are calling on the Chancellor to tackle the UK’s toxic air crisis.
Alan Andrews, lead clean air lawyer at ClientEarth, said in a blog on HuffPost UK that the government must “abolish the incentives that have condemned the country to illegally poor air quality for years”.
He added: “The Government also needs to make the polluter pay – which in this case is the car manufacturers, who have successfully lobbied against effective pollution controls and gamed weak regulations to produce cars which pass laboratory tests but emit absurdly high amounts of pollution on the road.
“Having helped get us into this mess, it is high time they helped get us out of it. In Germany, automakers are contributing a quarter of a billion euros to a clean air fund. In the UK? Not a single penny.”