Budget and Spending Review 2021: Policy Connect responds

We were pleased to see a number of recommendations that we have made to the Chancellor taken on board in yesterday’s Budget and Spending Review. 

In our September letter to the Chancellor on the Spending Review consultation, we outlined that Health and Social Care spending needed to prioritise recruitment, training and retention of the workforce. We are pleased to see the Spending Review take this on board, with the pledge to provide hundreds of millions of pounds in additional funding for workforce recruitment and training. We look forward to seeing these proposals in more detail alongside a comprehensive workforce strategy. We also welcome the £500 million pledged to improve qualifications, skills and wellbeing across the adult social care workforce.

Visual Arts: the Beating Heart and Soul of Building Back Better, a report from Policy Connect, the All-Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group and the Contemporary Visual Arts Network, recommended that government extend and simplify current tax incentives for small galleries and new artists, and specifically called for the Museums and Galleries Exhibition Tax Relief (MGETR) should be rolled over from 1 April 2022 for a further five years, increased and expanded. This recommendation was highlighted to the Chancellor earlier this year in a letter from Lord Vaizey. We’re pleased to see that in the Budget the Chancellor recognised the importance of the creative arts to the economy, with his announcement yesterday to double the MGETR and extend it for two years.  

The Chancellor has announced £3.6 billion of additional funding to allow continued investment in support for the unemployed, with a particular focus on those long-term unemployed, young people, and those aged 50 and over. This includes extending some of the Plan for Jobs schemes such as Kickstart and Restart, as well as over £900 million for each year of the spending review on work coaches. This funding is welcome, but as we recommended in our report Transition to Ambition: Navigating the careers maze, provision of careers advice and guidance must be a central component of Plan for Jobs schemes. This will ensure that these schemes work as well as possible to help those who take them up move into sustainable employment.

The Chancellor has also expanded the R&D Tax Credit programme – increasing the scope of what can be claimed with a particularly focus on data and cloud computing costs. The Higher Education Commission responded to this consultation in the summer, where we called for the system to be reformed to provide greater assistance in boosting SME R&D. The changes on data and cloud computing should help to deliver productivity gains for SMEs, as they can now claim tax credits on these investments.

In our report Green Bill of Health, we recommended the government demonstrate their environmental ambition by restoring and expanding high-quality green spaces in cities. These measures have high benefit to cost ratios, increase resilience to many of the impacts of climate change and have numerous health benefits for communities and individuals. Expanding green space in cities also reduces the urban heat island effect, enhances air quality and improves mental health and wellbeing. The government’s commitment to invest £9 million to the new Levelling Up Parks Fund, creating over 100 new parks across the UK, is a welcome development to help increase the multiple benefits of green spaces.