POLITICS
29/10/2018 17:05 GMT | Updated 30/10/2018 10:07 GMT

HuffPost Verdict: A Sticking Plaster Budget For The Bleeding Stumps Of Our Public Services

From schools to social care to defence, here's everything you need to know about the Red Book.

K E Y   P O I N T S

 

  • Chancellor announces £1 billion package over five years for Universal Credit rollout, with details to be announced later in the year.

  • Work Allowance to be boosted by £1,000 per annum. “Universal Credit is here to stay,” Hammond says, helping 2.4 million working families with children, and people with disabilities by £630 per year.

  • National Living Wage to reach £8.21 in April.

  • Government rules out signing another PFI or PF2 contracts. “The days of the public sector being a pushover must end,” says Hammond, claiming the move is “putting another Labour legacy behind us.” 

  • A new “digital services tax” for tech giants that generate at least £500m-a-year in the UK – such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. Tax will be introduced in 2020 and expected to bring in the relatively low sum of around £400m a year

  • 26-30 railcard to be ready by end of the year.

  • UK is no longer borrowing to finance current spending – and borrowing is £11.6bn lower than at the Spring Statement.

  • The deficit will reach “its lowest level in 20 years” by 2023/24, when it is forecast to be £20.8bn (next year it is expected to be £31.8bn).

  • Growth forecasts are up: 1.6% in 2019, 1.4% in 2020 and 2021, 1.5% in 2022 and 1.6% in 2023.

  • Chancellor sets aside £2bn for Brexit preparations in for 2019-20, up from £1.5bn.

  • Councils to be handed £240m to ease social care winter pressures and a further £650m of grant funding will be handed to councils for 2019-20.

  • Children’s social care programmes to be handed extra £84m over five years to help councils with high levels of children in care.

  • High streets to get £900m in business rates relief and a £650m fund will to turn empty shops into homes and offices

  • One-off £400m for schools for “little extras they need” following weeks of criticism over school cuts

  • Plastic: new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging which contains less than 30% recycled plastic to be introduced.

  • MOD to receive £1bn to modernise armed forces in a big win for Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. The cash will boost cyber capabilities and anti-submarine warfare capacity.

  • Chancellor confirms mental health services to get additional £2bn as part of already-announced £20bn long-term funding settlement for the NHS.

  • High street - £1.5bn package, with £900m in business rates relief for small retailers and £650m to turn empty shops into homes and offices, with some small businesses seeing rates cut by a third

  • £1.7m fund for education about the Holocaust as Chancellor references “terrible events” in Pittsburgh that “remind us that the battle against anti-Semitism did not end with the defeat of Nazi Germany”. 

  • Stamp duty relief to be extended to people buying homes under shared ownership and an extra £500m for the housing infrastructure fund (expected to unlock building projects on 650,000 homes).

  • Announcement on business rates relief for public toilets came with a gag: “Honestly, Mr Deputy Speaker, this is virtually the only announcement in this Budget that hasn’t leaked.”

  • Duty on beer, cider and spirits frozen for the next year, saving 2p on a pint of beer, 1p on a pint of cider, and 30p on a bottle of Scotch or gin compared to the inflation assumption in the OBR forecast. Duties on wine to rise in line with RPI inflation and white ciders to be taxed at a new higher rate.

S N A P   V E R D I C T

From Paul Waugh, HuffPost UK Political Editor

The main soundbite Philip Hammond wanted on the evening TV bulletins was that “the era of austerity is finally coming to an end”. In case we missed it, he said it three times. However, ‘coming to an end’ is clearly not the same as ‘ended’. And when the Chancellor also said the Budget “paves the way for a brighter future”, it was obvious he wasn’t magically delivering a brighter present.

 

A year ago, Hammond was promising “jam tomorrow” and it has yet to be spread on anyone’s toast. In the Spring Statement, he said there would be “light at the end of the tunnel”. For councils and other areas hardest hit by the spending squeeze, that light still looks far off. Hammond’s speech was full of lame gags, but for many still feeling the pinch, the joke isn’t funny anymore.

 

Evolution, not revolution. That’s the mantra that’s made the Conservative Party one of the most successful political parties in history. A tweak here, a fix there, but the overall direction is unchanged. And that was the route map for Hammond as he tried to look in control of the nation’s finances, while trying to meet voters’ demands to end austerity.

 

From schools to social care to defence, sticking plasters were applied to the bleeding stumps of our public services. A bit of cash from internet giants, a bit more money from tax evasion, abolishing PFI, hiking gambling taxes, bungs for Brexiteers and the DUP, none of it felt like radical change. Today, the Chancellor didn’t scrap Universal Credit but he did devote £2bn in extra funding. Some big money was directed, however to tax cuts.

 

The problem for the Tories is that the Brexit vote was itself a revolution. And after eight long years of cuts, there’s still an unmet hunger for big change. Worse still, ‘continuity’ and ‘stability’, two favourite Treasury words, suddenly become politically dangerous when the voters think they’ve heard it all before.

 

After every Budget, the hunt is on for winners and losers. The political verdict this time is being deliberately postponed until Theresa May hammers out her final Brexit deal in the next few weeks. Potentially mutinous Tory backbenchers are waiting to see whether the PM swaps the tunnel of austerity with the dark labyrinth of an endless transition out of the EU. If May and Hammond get that wrong, this may be the last Budget for both of them.

B E S T   Q U O T E 

Both our fiscal rules met; both of them three years early. So, Mr Deputy Speaker, fiscal Phil says: fiscal rules OK.Chancellor Philip Hammond
Whatever the Chancellor has claimed today, austerity is not over.Jeremy Corbyn