Published on 29 October 2018
Monday is Philip Hammond's last Budget before Brexit and his first since Theresa May declared an ‘end’ to austerity.
But what will the Chancellor actually deliver and will it help North East business?
We asked Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Academic Dean, Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism and Dr Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society, for their views and predictions
So what would North East business like to see the Chancellor offering?
“The strength of manufacturing to the North-East needs to be maintained through the unsettling period of Brexit. Companies in the sector need to improve their competitiveness and have the confidence to invest. Tax breaks for investment in premises, plant and equipment would help to overcome some of the current confidence issues.”
And what about business bills?
“Manufacturing’s energy bill needs to stay in check for competitiveness, including fuel costs for moving product around. Careful consideration of the tax burden there is necessary.”
Do we need to think more about green business?
“The environment is a growing concern for consumers and companies alike and green solutions to operations challenges should be rewarded.
“Investment in funding for research and development in green-tech can help the environment, drive down future costs and expand this area of industry activity.”
We’ve seen what happened with Debenhams this week, how could the Chancellor help retail?
“Retail continues to be under pressure from the rise of the internet and changing consumer demands. If towns and cities across the region are going to maintain themselves as attractive and viable then funding to support urban regeneration with mixed leisure, retail and city living should be made available.”
“Debenhams is one of the long line of High Street retailers who continue to suffer the rebalancing of the retail sector. Challenged by significant overheads, pressure on disposable income and the rise of the internet shopper the bricks and mortar side of the business is suffering.
“However given the strength of the brand, distribution on-line in parallel and the many profitable areas of the business a leaner and more focused offering should have strong potential for future stability. It’s still after all a £3bn business, so lots of scope.”
And what about infrastructure?
“If the Northern powerhouse concept is really going to benefit the North-East then infrastructure improvement is needed. Road, rail and telecommunications investments are critical.”
Dr Lynne McKenna
What are your hopes for Monday's Budget?
I am hopeful that supporting children, families and communities, will be at the heart of the Government’s autumn budget. Eight years of austerity cuts to education and social services have had a significant impact on provision and more importantly, on outcomes for children, young people and their families. Early Years, SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) School funding, Post-16 funding, closure of youth services and cuts to the social care budget have and continue to be considerably affected.
Why is more help needed?
The impact of the closure of Sure Start Children’s Centres is having a significant impact on the lives of many parents and young children. Part of the flagship Labour policy of 1997, Sure Start Children’s Centres first appeared in 1998, initially in deprived areas but were subsequently rolled out nationally. The success of the centres provided support to parents and young children offering parenting support, health, education, and employment support.
The Centres became a victim of austerity cuts and in 2018, the Sutton Trust estimated that as many as 1,000 centres have closed. This has made it more difficult for low income families with children to access essential support and services and will therefore, negatively impact on the Government’s Child Poverty Act targets. Combined with issues such as the growing number of children who are reported as having ‘school holiday hunger’ and some working parents reporting having to use food banks to feed their children, it is clear that the cuts have impacted upon the section of our society who need the most support.
In our schools, we are witnessing an increase in pupil numbers which has been rising steadily rising since the early 2000’s and this is beginning to hit secondary schools. While the schools minister Nick Gibb claims that more money than ever is being put into schools, the way in which the data is presented is misleading. Taking inflation into account, the increase in school funding is actually equivalent in real terms to an actual freeze in funding. Alongside this, the School Teachers’ Review Body recommended in July 2018 that teachers should receive a pay increase of 3.5% . If implemented fully, this will further impact on school budgets and could potentially result in a situation where school leaders are forced to make further cuts to implement pay rises for staff.
In the same way, spending on sixth form and post-16 colleges has fallen by a fifth in the past eight years according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and this has led to job losses, course closures and limited learning opportunities. There are calls from teaching unions and head teacher associations that the cost of all pay awards for school teachers, sixth forth college teachers and support staff should be fully funded by the government.
And what about social care in the community?
Social Care was not mentioned in the last budget, so I am hopeful it is paid some attention in today’s budget. Cuts to local authority services such as youth services and social care are affecting the most vulnerable in our communities. For example, the number of children with special educational needs who are awaiting suitable provision has more than doubled since 2010. The removal of women’s refuges from the welfare system is putting the lives of vulnerable women and children at risk, and one in five children waiting to be adopted have been waiting over a year. Social workers are reporting not being able to access services they know the people they are working with need.