Sunak on spending spree ahead of Budget

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The finance minister, who has been in charge of the country’s financial response to the pandemic, reiterated his promise to do ‘whatever it takes’ to help businesses and working families, reports Asian Lite News

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Sunday unveiled a series of spending pledges ahead of his Autumn Budget statement next week, including GBP 5 billion towards health research and innovation and GBP 3 billion for education and skills.

The finance minister, who has been in charge of the country’s financial response to the pandemic, reiterated his promise to do ‘whatever it takes’ to help businesses and working families.

Among the pledges unveiled by his Treasury department ahead of Wednesday’s Budget speech, GBP 1.4 billion has been earmarked to encourage foreign investment into UK businesses and attract overseas talent; GBP 700 million to be spent mainly on the new post-Brexit borders and immigration system, as well as a new maritime patrol fleet; GBP 560 million for adult maths coaching to help increase numeracy; and a six-month extension to the COVID recovery loan scheme to June 2022.

“I know that families here at home are feeling the pinch of higher prices and are worried about the months ahead,” Sunak wrote in the ‘Sun on Sunday’.

“But I want you to know, we will continue to do whatever it takes, we will continue to have your backs. just like we did during the pandemic. And while we cannot solve these problems overnight, I’m determined to meet these challenges head on, with the same grit and determination this great nation has shown throughout the pandemic,” he wrote.

At the heart of his plans is a so-called ‘skills revolution’ covering T-Level skills qualifications for 16 to 19-year-olds.

“This GBP 3 billion skills revolution builds on our Plan for Jobs and will spread opportunity across the UK by transforming post-16 education ‘ giving people the skills they need to earn more and get on in life,” said Sunak.

And, around 500,000 people are expected to benefit from a new Multiply programme of free personal tutoring, digital training, and flexible courses.

“Better maths can mean a better job and a bigger pay packet. Multiply will help people develop new skills and create opportunities,” added Sunak.

Besides, a UK-wide trial of Covid-19 antiviral treatments will receive GBP 33 million, while GBP 40 million will be spent on research in social care reform, GBP 30 million on investing in research skills and training, and GBP 20 million on research in climate change and health.

The Autumn Budget, presented to the House of Commons, is crucial in the UK’s financial calendar and will be accompanied by a Spending Review to allocate funds to different government departments. Sunak has described next week’s Budget as his plan to ‘invest in public services, invest in growth, and invest in jobs’.

The minister will also announce a £5 billion fund for innovative health-related projects, according to his office.

Health Minister Sajid Javid said the investment would add to coronavirus treatments and vaccines developed in the UK to battle the pandemic.

“The new investment will build on this success by accelerating the discovery of ground-breaking medicines and technologies,” he said.

But the big-spending plans have raised questions about where the debt-wracked government is going to find the money, with free-marketers within Sunak’s Conservative Party concerned that it will come from tax rises.

The country is also suffering from high inflation and supply shortages, blamed on the pandemic and Brexit.

But he conceded supply shortages and high energy prices were squeezing household budgets.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves, the shadow finance minister, took aim at her counterpart for not doing enough to ease the burden.

“Our priority would be easing the cost-of-living price crisis, helping businesses who have had a torrid 18 months,” she told Sky News.

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