Budget 2021: What wasn’t in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s economic statement

The budget was chock full of announcements – including on the furlough scheme, Universal Credit and stamp duty.

But there were some things missing from Rishi Sunak’s big economic statement to MPs on Wednesday.

Sky News takes a look at what was not in the 2021 Budget.

NHS

The health service has never been far from the headlines over the last year as Britain battles coronavirus.

But there were just two mentions of the NHS in Mr Sunak’s budget speech: the chancellor said it was “deserving of immense praise” for the vaccine rollout and cited the government’s previous promise to “keep our NHS strong”.

There was no mention of funding for the health service, although Mr Sunak said in his autumn statement in November that the NHS’s core budget would increase by £6.6bn in the next year and a further £3bn would be provided to support its recovery.

Brexit

The B word has dominated British politics since the 2016 vote to leave the EU.

However, Brexit was not mentioned once by the chancellor.

There was the announcement of eight freeports, which Mr Sunak described as “special economic zones with different rules to make it easier and cheaper to do business”.

He said this was a “policy we can only pursue now we’re outside the European Union”, although critics pointed out that such zones exist in the EU already.

Social care

What to do about social care has bedevilled successive governments. Reforms have been promised, but the complexity and controversy of tackling the issue has seen changes put off.

The government has promised proposals will be brought forward later this year, but care groups, MPs and charities criticised the absence of social care from the chancellor’s remarks.

Labour’s shadow social care minister Liz Kendall wrote on Twitter: “No mention of social care in #Budget21: either immediate funding or long-term reforms. Elderly & disabled people need decent social care so they can live with dignity & respect.

“Families need it to help them balance work & caring responsibilities. NHS needs it too. Huge mistake.”

Sam Monaghan, chief executive of the charitable care provider MHA, also tweeted: “Are those of us in social care surprised by the lack of funding laid out in today’s budget?

“I think not – but disappointment rings heavy.”

Public sector pay

Unions attacked the chancellor’s “deafening” silence on pay for public sector workers.

Officials from unions that represent hundreds of thousands of public sector workers described Mr Sunak’s budget as an “insult”.

Many public sector workers are facing a pay freeze this year despite calls for an increase because of their efforts during the coronavirus crisis.

GMB national officer Rehana Azam said: “The chancellor can dance around his living room with the ministerial red box all he wants, but all this budget shows to public sector workers is that his clapping is a worthless gesture.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, added: “His refusal to lift the pay cap on civil servants and other public sector workers, who have kept the country going during the pandemic, is a disgrace and economically illiterate.”

The chancellor announced a public sector pay freeze at his autumn statement in November – although one million nurses, doctors and other NHS employees still received a pay rise.

Asked about the continuing public sector pay freeze at a Downing Street news conference following the budget, Mr Sunak said job losses and falling wages in the private sector, as well as the “very obviously difficult fiscal situation that we face”, meant it was “reasonable to take a more targeted approach to public-sector pay this year”.

Amazon tax

Sky News reported last month that Mr Sunak was considering an online sales tax on Amazon and other major internet retailers to help the UK pay its debts after extensive borrowing during the pandemic.

But there was no mention of this during his economic statement.

Green jobs

There was disappointment in many circles that the speech contained no new specific investment to drive employment under the country’s climate targets.

Environmental campaigners and the UK car industry have also long demanded action to support the electrification of vehicles through scrappage schemes.

Nothing was announced on Wednesday to aid the 2030 ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars.

Mr Sunak argued freeports offered the chance to bolster areas such as carbon capture storage and wind farm development, but TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady responded: “We saw nothing like the investment we need to stop unemployment and level-up the UK with millions of new green jobs.”

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City centres

Businesses used to serving the needs of millions of people in the likes of London, Manchester and Edinburgh have been among those worst hit by the pandemic as streets became deserted through WFH.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company which represents 600 firms in central London, said the chancellor’s support “delivers too little for major commercial centres missing out on tourism and office workers where rebuilding traffic, trade and tourists will require years of effort”.

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