The College of Podiatry’s comment on today’s budget

Trade Union
Public Affairs
The College of Podiatry's response to today's budget by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

It is incredible to think that only one year ago Rishi Sunak delivered his first budget. The Chancellor, clearly mindful that marketing and brand recognition is all, is now positioning himself as the next potential Prime Minister through his own branding and promotional videos.

So much of today’s budget has been deliberately leaked by the Treasury to the press in the past week, there are few surprises. This budget comes at a time of unprecedented economic challenges for the country. Not only dealing with trying to support businesses through the pandemic, the furlough scheme has cost over £50bn to date, but also the reconfiguring of structural systems due to the UK’s exit from the EU. All of this against a backdrop of potentially the greatest global downturn in a generation. The Chancellor is borrowing on an exceptional scale, but borrowing from the Bank of England, at low rates. This is needed to ensure that businesses can remain viable for a time after the pandemic.

What does today’s budget mean for health care and what does it mean for business, what has been left out, and why.

NHS pay was not mentioned, despite the many praises the government has given to NHS workers over the pandemic. Sources close to the Chancellor have said that he will wait for the NHS Pay Review Body report to be released in May before making any statement.

Martin Furlong, CoP Head of Employment Relations said that:

'This means that NHS workers, who have been suffering from stress, illness, anxiety, long hours and uncertainty, may have to wait until the next spending review, in November 2021, to hear news of any rise in their pay. We know that the NHS has a workforce crisis, a decent pay rise may help to ease some of the pain they’ve been going through. This is simply not good enough, NHS workers have kept the country safe during this pandemic but are not viewed by the Chancellor as a priority.’

There was no mention of social care anywhere within this budget. This will no doubt cause raised eyebrows given the year that anyone with any connection to social care has had, and the overwhelming numbers of deaths that have happened within residential care. Also, there was no mention of the rumoured £1bn for elective surgery. It is hoped that the NHS White Paper, currently going through Parliament, and an expected announcement on reforms to social care later this year, will address these serious issues.

An additional £2.4bn has been found for the administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, possibly with an eye on the independence referendum the SNP will be calling for should they win another election in Scotland this May.

For a second year, the Chancellor announced a freeze on alcohol duty. This will be seen by many in public health as a missed opportunity. Last year the BMA published a report1 which backed up Public Health England’s 2016 findings, calling for an increase in alcohol duty due to the annual 5,500 alcohol-specific deaths and 1.1m alcohol-related hospital admissions, which costs the NHS £3.5bn per year.2

The Chancellor also announced that 100% business rates holiday in England will continue from April until June. There will be a minimum wage to increase to £8.91 an hour from April. Universal Credit top-up of £20-per-week will continue for a further six months, and a further 600,000 self-employed people will be eligible for help as access to grants is widened. The furlough scheme - which pays 80% of employees' wages - will be extended until the end of September. Employers will be asked to contribute 10% in July and 20% in August and September.

Katie Collins, Professional Officer at the College, told the TUC earlier today how the pandemic has an unequal impact on women with reported incidents of domestic violence up 200% on pre-Covid figures. Therefore, we welcome the Chancellor committing £19m for domestic violence programmes.

This budget will be seen as kicking many cans down the road. However, the shock to the economy of a pandemic cannot be underestimated and the Chancellor will clearly hope to see some light emerging come the November spending review. It shows that the current Government, unlike previous 21st-century Conservative Governments, favour increased state-involvement.

Steve Jamieson
Chief Executive and General Secretary
The College of Podiatry

3 February 2021

1 British Medical Association (2020) Reducing alcohol-related harm: a blueprint for Government https://www.bma.org.uk/media/2072/tackling-alcohol-related-harm-in-england.pdf

2 Public Health England (2016) The public health burden of alcohol and the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of alcohol control policies: an evidence review. London: Public Health England https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-public-health-burden-of-alcohol-evidence-review