The Treasury has announced that Chancellor Phillip Hammond will use his first Budget to help to prepare Britain for a ‘new chapter’ in its history after Brexit. In an ‘upbeat’ speech, he is expected to say the economy has proved resilient since the referendum but admit that many families are ‘feeling the pinch’. Extra money is expected for social care in England and to help firms facing business rate rises.
Mr Hammond is also expected to announce that a £5m fund will be set up to mark the centenary of female suffrage next year. The budget coincides with International Women’s Day, which will support projects celebrating the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave more than 8 million women the vote for the first time and paved the way for universal suffrage a decade later.
With the public finances proving stronger in recent months than expected, and defying forecasts of a post-EU referendum downturn, economists say the chancellor has more room for manoeuvre than he might have expected at the time of last November’s Autumn Statement. He has already announced £320m in funding for new free schools and the expansion of existing grammar schools, while the science budget is also expected to be a winner, with funding for electric vehicles, robotics and artificial intelligence.
However, Mr Hammond has distanced himself from talk of wider giveaways, stressing the need for the UK to reduce borrowing in the long term and to ensure the country is prepared for future global economic uncertainty and any short-term turbulence arising from its withdrawal from the EU. The Treasury said Mr Hammond – who will set out his tax and spending plans for the year ahead at 12:30 GMT – would give an “upbeat assessment” of the UK’s economic prospects and offer a “positive backdrop ahead of the start of new chapter for the country outside of the EU”.