There may not be many surprises left when Rishi Sunak delivers his second Budget in a year on Wednesday, after a number of announcements totalling more than £20 billion were made over the weekend.
The Chancellor will head to the Commons with a focus on levelling up transport links outside London, research and development in health, and a “skills revolution”.
It will be the second time this year he has stood in front of MPs and updated them on the state of the nation’s finances after the 2020 Budget was delayed until March due to the coronavirus.
And although some 11 areas of investment were announced by the Treasury over the weekend, Mr Sunak is also expected to impress on MPs the importance of keeping public finances in a healthy state.
Some big-ticket items for investment already announced include:
– £7 billion for areas outside of London to “level up” transport;
– £5 billion for health-related research and development, including towards genome sequencing and tackling health inequalities;
– £3 billion to drive a “skills revolution”;
– A £1.4 billion fund to funnel money into key innovative sectors and a new talent network to woo foreign talent into UK industries;
– £850 million to “breathe life” back into cultural hotspots;
– £700 million for a new fleet of patrol boats for Britain’s borders;
– £700 million to improve sports and youth clubs;
– £560 million to provide personalised maths coaching;
– £500 million towards support for families and children, including new family hubs;
– £435 million for crime prevention and the Crown Prosecution Service, part of which aims to improve the response to rape and sexual assault cases, and;
– £5 million for cutting-edge treatments for veterans.
But in an interview with The Times on Saturday, Mr Sunak also warned that the “policy has shifted” to focus on building a stronger economy after the pandemic.
He told the newspaper: “We’ve lived through quite an extraordinary year and a half… and it’s not possible to sustain that type of spending and borrowing – the highest since World War Two – indefinitely.
“It wouldn’t be right or responsible to do that.”
He said: “The policy has shifted, you’ll see that next week. We’re talking about the future and about building that stronger future economy.”
And he added: “An important part of being Chancellor is making sure that the economy and public finances have the resilience to cope with whatever comes our way.
“And as we’ve seen over the last 18 months, stuff comes our way. In an uncertain world the best protection that you can have is strong public finances because you don’t know exactly what the next thing is going to be.”
The biggest investment announced so far has been into transport, with metro mayors being handed billions over five years to overhaul transport systems outside of London.
The move was welcomed by mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham who succeeded in securing more than £1 billion to develop his Bee Network of London-style transport.
The Department of Health and Social Care will be handed £5 billion over three years to invest in, among other areas, genomics sequencing and health inequalities.
The Chancellor said the pandemic had shown “how important innovative research and development is in delivering new, life-saving treatments”.
The Office for Life Sciences will receive £95 million to deliver on promises over cancer, obesity and mental health.
Some £3 billion of investment will go to post-16 education but also to adults later in life.
And the £1.4 billion Global Britain Investment Fund will hand out grants to encourage internationally mobile companies to invest in the UK’s critical industries, including life sciences and automotive.
The Treasury said companies with “strategically important investment proposals” would be able to get grants towards their schemes through the fund.
A new talent network will also be set up in innovation hotspots, first in the Bay Area of San Francisco and Boston in the US in 2022, and also Bengaluru in India.
Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said to recover from the pandemic businesses need to get investing.
She said: “This scheme hits the spot when it comes to some of our most innovative industries in the UK.
“Businesses will be hopeful that there will be more to come from the Chancellor next week to help get firms investing.”
Wednesday will also see the Chancellor announce through the spending review the money to be handed to the key Government departments over the next three years.
He will also be expected to demonstrate how the Prime Minister’s promise of a new high-skill, high wage economy can be achieved, and face questions over the cost of living crisis Labour is keen to expose.