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Minimum wage hike and NHS backlog investment – key budget promises debunked

The Government has tried to distract from claims of a new era of austerity by sending a slew of press releases on Mr Sunak’s spending plans, trumpeting everything from £6bn for NHS backlogs to £2bn to help councils build homes on brownfield sites

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Rishi Sunak: What to expect from budget with Victoria Scholar

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will raise the minimum wage to £9.50 and lift the public sector pay freeze in his Budget on Wednesday as he claims the economy is “firmly back on track” after Covid.

But Labour has called his plans to help the low paid “underwhelming” as poor families will still be clobbered by Universal Credit cutbacks, a hike in National Insurance and income tax freeze.

It came as the Treasury could not confirm any hike to public sector pay will top towering inflation levels, as the supply chain crisis is set to push food and energy prices up this winter.

Meanwhile, the Government has tried to distract from claims of a new era of austerity by sending a slew of press releases on Mr Sunak’s spending plans, trumpeting everything from £6bn for NHS backlogs to £2bn to help councils build homes on brownfield sites.

Below are some of the key policies Mr Sunak will announce, and the impact they will really have on the British people.



Rishi Sunak will drop his budget on Wednesday
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Image:

Getty Images)




The policy: Chancellor Rishi Sunak will raise the national living wage from £8.91 to £9.50 in the Budget

The Treasury confirmed on Monday the increase for all over-23s will take place on April 1.

The Government has claimed the 59p hourly rise will mean a full-time worker on the living wage will get a pay rise of more than £1,000 a year.









The reality : While the figure sounds good, Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said it was “not true in any serious sense” and workers could expect an extra £250 due to welfare cuts, looming tax rises, and rising inflation.

A Labour analysis found a single parent with two children who receives Universal Credit would be £807 worse off if the wage hike comes alongside the £20-a-week Universal Credit cut, a freeze in the personal allowance, and the planned 13.25% National Insurance rise.

The policy: Rishi Sunak will unveil a £5.7billion package of transport upgrade projects for eight regions of England.



The Chancellor has promised transport upgrades
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Image:

Eddie Garvey)




Projects will include improving the A61 between Wakefield and Leeds for buses, cyclists and pedestrians.

New trams will be ordered in Manchester while rail stations are set for a revamp in Darlington, Middlesbrough, Liverpool and Runcorn.

Overall Greater Manchester will get £1.07bn, West Midlands £1.05bn, West Yorkshire £830m, Liverpool City Region £710m, South Yorkshire £570m, West of England £540m and Tees Valley £310m. The North East is set to get just over £600m.

The reality: It appears just £1.5bn of what the Treasury is calling a “local transport revolution” is new money.

Local leaders in the North fear the cash could in fact mean ambitions to connect areas outside London are being “watered down”.

Henri Murison of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership lobbying group, told ITV : “Without the full delivery of HS2, without Northern Powerhouse Rail and a new station in Bradford, the North of England will be short-changed.”

The policy: Young families will benefit from a new £500million investment, with 74 new “one-stop shop” hubs set up in 75 council areas.

Most of the money will be focused on breastfeeding and mental health advice, while £200million will help 300,000 families with complex problems that could lead to family breakdown. Rishi Sunak has said he “passionately” believes in giving children the “best possible start”.

The reality: Labour says the cash is a “smokescreen” which masks how the Tories have failed to deliver for families, with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves calling the hubs a “pale imitation” of Sure Start Centres, which were introduced by Tony Blair ’s Government.

Five hundred Sure Start Centres have closed since 2010 after the Tories cut funding by two thirds.

The policy: An extra £6billion will be handed to the NHS which is struggling with backlogs from the pandemic.



The government has a big job on its hands clearing the NHS backlog
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Image:

TMS)




The Chancellor announced the funding for England as NHS waiting lists hit a record 5.7 million, which health chiefs fear could reach seven million.

The new money consists of £2.3billion to set up 100 community diagnostic centres providing rapid access to CT, MRI and ultrasound scans and other tests.

There will also be £1.5 billion to create surgical hubs in hospitals to tackle waiting times for planned operations. And £2.1billion will go on improving IT equipment, broadband access and digitalising patient records.

The reality: The NHS could still face a winter staffing crisis if the Government has no plan to recruit staff.

Asked whether the cash would clear the backlog within three years, Health Secretary Sajid Javid could not answer.


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