Although many in the Commons will have other things on their mind today, (13 March), the Chancellor Phillip Hammond dutifully delivered his Spring Statement this afternoon to update on the health of the UK economy.
Growth forecasts for this year were down 0.4% but raised for 2020 and 2021, whilst borrowing forecasts were lower for the foreseeable future.
As suspected, there were no big announcements for the employment support sector. However, it’s worth noting that the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review will begin before July and conclude by the Autumn Budget in October. Ministers have said that decisions on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be determined during the Spending Review process and Government continues to maintain the consultation will be published ‘very shortly’.
Other relevant points in today’s statement include:
• The reduction in the amount SMEs contribute towards apprenticeships – announced in the Autumn Budget – will be brought forward to April this year.
• The National Retraining Scheme will be launched from this summer.
• The Government has published details of Professor Arindrajit Dube’s review of the impact of low pay on employment and productivity.
• The long-awaited review of post-18 education will be launched ‘soon’. The Chancellor also said the Government is committed to ‘returning technical and vocational to the heart of our educational system’.
• A £3bn Affordable Homes Guarantee scheme will deliver 30,000 affordable homes.
• £100m will be made available to tackle knife crime, bringing together a range of agencies including health, education, social services and others, to develop a multi-agency approach.
The Chancellor also promised a ‘deal dividend’, including ‘capital investment in shared prosperity’, if MPs voted in favour of a Brexit deal. However, he warned the consequences of no deal which would mean a ‘smaller, less prosperous country with lower growth, higher unemployment and higher prices’.