Philip Hammond used his second Budget as Chancellor to try to tackle the housing crisis, soften the impact of the Universal Credit roll-out and make sure enough cash is available to plan for Brexit.
But tucked away in his Budget document and the Office For Budget Responsibility’s analysis of the measures were some interesting details.
1) We’re all going to have to keep working longer hours
It had been assumed that as the economy grew stronger, people could cut back on all those extra hours they were working to help make ends meet.
However, with fall in projected growth levels, the OBR believes workers will still have to put in the overtime for the foreseeable future. “We have revised up our forecast for the underlying trend in average hours worked and now assume that is remains broadly flat over our forecast period.”
According to the OBR, axing stamp duty for first time buyers will actually cause house prices to rise by at 0.3%. “The main gainers from the policy are people who already own property, not First Time Buyers themselves”, says the watchdog.
3) The Government wants the NHS to sell off buildings and have more PFI deals
The Chancellor announced an extra £3.5billion for the NHS to spend on capital investment, but tucked away in the Budget is another plan to raise money: selling off health service land and buildings. The Budget says “selling surplus NHS land and buildings” will raise £3.3billion, and some of this can be used for housing.
Also, despite a report in August warning the NHS was leaking money to companies through Private Finance Initiatives, the Chancellor seems to want more of these deals. The selling of land and buildings “will also be accompanied by private finance investment in the health estate where this provides good value for money,” says the Budget.
4) UK growth is slower than the Eurozone, US, Canada and Japan.
The UK’s sluggish growth figures certainly raised eyebrows today, but when you put the stats alongside some international competitors, it’s even more worrying.
This chart from the OBR shows the Eurozone outperformed the UK throughout 2016 and the first 9 months of this year, while the US, Canada and Japan have all now overtaken Britain.
5) They are going to be five new Garden Towns…but no idea where.
As part of the drive to solve the housing crisis, the Chancellor is pledging to build five new Garden Towns in the UK. However, despite such an ambitious pledge, the announcement only warrants 35 words in the Budget document:
“The government will bring together public and private capital to build five new garden towns, using appropriate delivery vehicles such as development corporations, including in areas of high demand such as the South East.”
A Treasury spokesperson was asked if there was any clue as to where these towns would be built. “Ask the Department for Communities and Local Government,” was the reply.
6) Social Care Isn’t Mentioned At All In The Budget
It was the issue which prompted Theresa May’s general election meltdown, and yet there was no mention of it in today’s Budget: social care.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was quick to pick up on the omission, telling a Tory MP who was heckling him during his Budget response: “I hope the honourable member begins to understand what it’s like to wait for social care, stuck in a hospital bed, while other people have to give up their work to care for them.”