And so, it’s here again – the Budget, or, ‘that day when that bloke comes out of 11 Downing Street with a big red briefcase, and then everyone yells at each other in the Commons (again)’.
Interestingly, all eyes have been on this year’s budget following recent comments from Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been chatting recently about “the end of austerity”. It’s also the big Brexit budget, marking the final Budget before the leave date of March 29, 2019, and people beginning to wonder if we’ll have enough cash for, y’know, food and stuff.
“The Budgets of the last eight years were not driven by ideology,” said chancellor Philip Hammond in the Commons this afternoon, to jeers from the Labour crowds, referencing the cut-first-ask-questions-later approach to Budgets gone by (remember that Millennial Railcard though? What a treat!). “They were driven by necessity, and by the failure of the party of the party opposite in Government… As ever, we did what needed to be done.” He continued by stating that “the era of austerity is finally coming to an end.” Not quite the decisive end Theresa promised, but an interesting move nonetheless.
It’s big talk for a Government which, for the past eight years, has leaned heavily on the reduction of public spending. But do they really mean it? We’ve waded through the waffle, broken down the Budget, and summed up what it really means to you – the British youth.
Let’s get the big, bad B-word out the way first. Ever so excitingly, Hammond has commissioned a special, commemorative 50p coin to mark Britain’s departure from the European Union. Don’t say they don’t treat you! That new shiny penny (which will feature the phrase “Friendship with all nations” – *raises eyebrow to camera*) is set to come into circulation around the time of our departure from the EU. That’s next March, folks.
In addition, Hammond announced a further £500 million for preparations for leaving the EU, on top of a £2 billion pot that’s already been promised. Still not totally sure what we’re spending that on, mind, but it’s there!
Proudly stating that there were 3.3 million more people in work since 2010, Hammond also remarked that the Tories would seek to create 800,000 new jobs by 2023, adding that a “monthly pay packet” is the surest way to get people back on their feet. It’s a nice number, of course, but that “monthly pay packet” quip is likely to land sourly with freelancers – the numbers of which have risen sharply, particularly among younger generations.
The apprenticeship levy – that is, the amount that a company has to pay out to take on an apprentice – is set to drop from 10% to 5%, with £695 million pledged to help boost the apprenticeship programme – essential in getting young people into skilled work.
The minimum wage will also rise from £7.83 to £8.21. This is a step closer towards the Living Wage Foundation‘s recommended pay of £8.75 an hour (though still short of the £10.20 p/h required in London).
Undoubtedly one of the biggest issues affecting British youth, the Government have promised an extra £2 billion a year (as a minimum) for mental health services across the country. In addition, there will be mental health crisis centres in every A&E unit – an admirable step towards greater help for those struggling with their mental health, particularly in the wake of shock accidents.
In a wider health context, the incessant whipping of the NHS is seemingly set to ease off. An extra £20.5 billion has been promised to the NHS, over the course of the next five years. It’s a big step away from the Tory policy of the last eight years.
Somewhat patronisingly, Hammond has promised schools a one-time “bonus” of £400 million, for “the little extras they need” – not particularly ideal when schools across the country have been facing big cuts and have been unable to buy essentials, not just a shortage of gold stars and double-sided tape.
First up, your morning coffee won’t be facing a big price hike. Proposed plans for a tax levy on takeaway coffee cups have been shelved for now, with the promise to revisit them if the coffee industry doesn’t make significant progress on its own.
However, there will be a new tax on non-recycled plastic packaging, which will hopefully mean that more companies start thinking about their carbon footprint and opting for packaging that’s upwards of 30% recycled plastics, rather than passing the price hikes for new plastics onto the customers. We shall see – but we’re hopeful.
Oh, and one final note – there’s a new relief available for businesses if they open their toilets up to the public. Niche, but when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.