British Chancellor Philip Hammond has unveiled his first budget, promising big increases in government spending, and some relief for small businesses, but also hitting the self-employed with higher taxes.
The Chancellor’s big government spending promises included £300m to fund scientific research and £270 million to help UK research into technology.
He also pledged £320 million for the creation of new free schools, and further funding to create new apprenticeships
Meanwhile, the Department for Local Government will receive an extra £2 billion to fund social care, amid fears of a crisis in care for the elderly.
There was some good news for small business as the Chancellor promised a £1,000 discount on Business rates for most pubs. Many shops, especially in South East England, are facing crippling rises in local authority rates.
However, he raised National Insurance contributions for the self-employed to pay for public services, a policy that will likely generate criticism from some Conservative colleagues.
He also levied a tax on sugary drinks of 18p per litre and 24p per litre depending on sugar content, another policy that will cause unease.
The ‘National Living Wage’ will also rise to £7.50 in April, while the Chancellor earmarked £5 million to celebrate the centenary of women getting the vote.
Britain’s economy has fared better than many expected after the Brexit vote, with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) revising its 2017 growth forecast upwards from 1.4 per cent to two per cent.
Ahead of Wednesday’s budget announcement, Prime Minister Theresa May said the government would pump more than £500 million into Britain’s education system, building new schools and renovating others.
AFP contributed to this report