Flying cars, cash for nurses, and finally, someone’s been listening to Attenborough
It’s the moment you probably haven’t been waiting for. On Wednesday, the government will announce its budget.
This happens once a year (it used to be twice [praise hands emoji]), and really, all it consists of is a man – it has, disappointingly, never ever been a woman – standing in a fancy room, reading out lists of numbers.
But it’s also an opportunity for the government to set out its priorities – to tell us all how much money it has (or doesn’t have), how it plans on raising more, and what it thinks is most important to spend it on.
Philip Hammond, the chancellor (aka the government’s money man) has been busy this weekend giving interviews and spoilers and stuff so we already have an inkling of what he’s going to say, here's a quick rundown.
Yup, the big reveal, the moment you've all been waiting for, drumroll please, etc etc etc: Philip Hammond is expected to announce regulation changes that will let manufacturers test driverless cars. He reckons they'll be on the UK's streets by 2021. Hammond wants Britain to “lead the next industrial revolution” – creating jobs, driving , and putting British industry back on the map (you can expect lots of phrases like that on Wednesday). You can also expect a lot of jokes about Philip Hammond sitting in the passenger seat of a driverless vehicle – which someone really should have thought about in advance.
Looks like Hammond’s been keeping up with the Economy website – or just watching Blue Planet. Following on from the success of the UK’s plastic bag tax, Hammond will announce a ‘consultation’ on a new tax on single use plastic. The UK press is already calling it the ‘takeaway tax’, so you can imagine how some people feel about it. Still, progress.
300,000 new houses a year. That’s a big promise. And, to be completely honest it’s one we’ve heard before. Politicians have been trying to show they’re doing something about the shortage of housing in the UK, and it’s something cynical people (ahem) might say is an attempt to win back the young people who flocked to the Tory party’s opposition, Labour, in the last general election.
But he did say this weekend that he’s not just going to “pour” money into housebuilding, and Labour are saying there’s no actual *plan* to fix the housing crisis. So we’ll just have to wait and see what those 300,000 thousand houses will look like, where they’ll be, and crucially, who they’ll be for.
The UK's fresh on the heels of another huge tax avoidance scandal (the Paradise Papers). The budget is also all about raising money for the government, not just spending it. Tax avoidance is something that comes up time and time again as governments try and strike a balance between closing the big hole in its finances caused by companies not paying their taxes, and giving other companies tax breaks, to try and encourage them to do business in the UK.
Another plug: we had a deeper look into the tax avoidance debate last week.
Who doesn’t love a good game of ‘will they, won’t they’? Particularly when it involves the livelihood of the people literally saving our lives. The latest reports are that Hammond will announce a boost in funding for the NHS, including (finally) a boost in wages for nurses – who’ve had their pay capped (or the amount it can rise limited) for a long time. The nurses are asking for a 3.9 per cent pay rise. That’s because inflation has gone up by 3 per cent since their last pay rise, which means that not only have their wages not increased, but the money they do get doesn’t go as far because everything else is getting more expensive (what’s called a real wage).