“The Chancellor had tried to signal he is listening to the pressures that austerity has placed on public services by a combination of reheated old news on Health, mixed with continuing greater freedoms for Local Government, topped off by the unsurprising death knell of PFI,” comments chairman Bruce Potter.
He continues: “On health and care, the Prime Minister had already stolen his biggest giveaway namely the extra £20 bn going to the NHS to coincide with the 70th Anniversary of the NHS earlier in the year. The Chancellor therefore had to content himself with a sneak preview of a continuing focus on mental health initiatives being planned as part of the new NHS 10 year plan, the road map for how that Brexit dividend will be spent. Very welcome but hardly new money. The announcements on the inextricably linked area of social care were more mixed. Yes another £650m was promised to target a range of Disabled Living , Children’s support and other much needed interventions. However what was unsaid was when the critical new proposals on long term Social Care funding will see the light of day. It is a very costly and politically charged issue, which many before the Chancellor have dodged. The fact remains that until that funding issue is settled, the vital integration of social care with the rest of health care will be impossible.
“Apart from Social Care, Local Government will get a much needed (and heavily trailed) £420m to help it fill pot holes and mend bridges. Whether that is enough to keep the shires quiet and the shire counties solvent remains to be seen.
“More subtly the Chancellor acknowledged that Local Government had been at the sharp end of austerity and the cuts needed to make that medicine work. He signalled a continuance of local freedoms and rate retention, as well as greater freedoms to stimulate local housing. Historically those freedoms have been linked to more regional devolution schemes but this did not feature as a key pre condition in this year’s speech.
“In the Education space the one off extra £400m promised to schools with capital projects sounded like good news, until the Chancellor converted that number into an individual impact of roughly £10,000 to each primary school and £50,000 to each Secondary school which may not look quite so generous.
“Finally the Chancellor confirmed that PFI has had its day. Whether the announcement had anything to do with the mess left by the collapse of Carillion, or was just too good a political opportunity to miss, as it allowed Hammond to take a sideswipe at a favoured old Labour policy, and pre- empt a new Labour promise hardly matters. It neatly illustrated the relative importance of the politics as opposed to the economics underpinning the Chancellors comments on Public Services.”
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