Phillip Hammond took centre stage today to announce…not very much really. This was not a budget of a government about to go to the country, as some have called for. More likely this was about digging in for the long haul and battening down the hatches for the stormy winds of Brexit negotiations over the next few years. The chances of the government embarking on major policy programmes while consumed by one of the trickiest tasks of a generation were always pretty slim of course. That said, there were a few snippets to interest the world of charities.
A widely expected investment in social care will undoubtedly be welcomed by those charities working in the health and social care world. The Chancellor announced £2bn over 3 years—frontloaded to £1.2bn in 2017-8, £800m in 2018-19, and £400m in 2019-20. Whether this will be enough is another question, and it will undoubtedly emerge pretty soon as to whether it is genuinely new money, or to be found from elsewhere in the system with all the knock-on effects that will entail.
The longer term review that was widely trailed will in fact be a green paper, so perhaps not the kind of independent commission many hoped for. And the Chancellor already ruled out one of the potential funding sources—the so-called ‘Death Tax’. As we said before the budget, charities will need to be gearing up to lobby for the causes and beneficiaries they represent if this latest review is to lead to any kind of sustainable solution.
The days of new city deals and metro-mayors being announced at seemingly every budget appear long gone. Devolution this time round was limited to the devolution of the thorny issue of business rate relief for the most complex cases-along with £300m. The one new deal announced was not with a core city outside the capital in an attempt to rebalance the economy, but with London itself. However there may well be opportunities for charities to get involved in a package covering criminal justice, health and skills.
International Women’ Day
As the Budget fell on International Women’s Day it almost felt inevitable that some funding would be announced to tackle issues related to violence against women and girls. The £20m funding spread equally over two years will undoubtedly be welcome to a sub-sector that has faced significant challenges in recent years as local government funding has become more restricted. But it’s still a drop in the ocean compared to changes to supported housing funding which affects refuges. Much of the sector is still holding its breath for the outcome of the latest consultation here.
Once the budget is unpicked, the bigger headlines might relate to the rather technical passage on changes to National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed. It is interesting to reflect that the Chancellor felt secure enough to potentially upset a growing portion of voters. Again, it’s another sign an election is unlikely to be in the offing. But steering through Brexit with a majority of 17 is going to be a herculean task that may well suck all the energy from government. It leaves charities working on influencing policy to achieve their mission with a bit of a dilemma over the next few years—does it mean that significant policy change is effectively off the government’s agenda, or does it free the sector up to take the lead in other ways?