Budget 2023 latest: Jeremy Hunt warns childcare changes ‘won’t happen overnight’

Jeremy Hunt has warned the childcare changes in his Spring Budget “will not happen overnight” but backed his plan to help parents with young children.

Mr Hunt, addressing the Commons on Wednesday, also said inflation would fall from 10.7 per cent in the final quarter of last year to 2.9 per cent by the end of 2023.

He announced a string of crowd-pleasing announcements including 30 hours of free childcare for eligible children over nine months, a cut to duty on pints and a freeze on fuel duty for another 12 months.

In an interview with the BBC, the chancellor was asked why the childcare support won’t be fully implemented until September 2025.

“We’re willing to start it as soon as possible,” Mr Hunt replied. “but the advice we had is that it’s such a big change in the market that it wouldn’t be possible to do it overnight”.

Earlier, the Government made a pre-Budget announcement confirming that the energy price guarantee would remain in place until June.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Budget was “dressing up stagnation as stability", claiming it put the country “on a path of managed decline".

For a full wrap on the key points, click here.

Budget key points

Wednesday 15 March 2023 13:09 , Miriam Burrell

Energy price cap to be extended in Budget

Wednesday 15 March 2023 07:07 , Josh Salisbury

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of today’s Budget.

The Treasury has just confirmed in the last few minutes that the energy price guarantee will be extended for a further three months from April to June at its current level.

This is the average annual cap in bills at £2,500.

Energy price cap extension ‘to save households £160'

Wednesday 15 March 2023 07:15 , Josh Salisbury

The three-month extension of the energy price cap at its current £2,500 level will save a typical household around £160, the Government said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We know people are worried about their bills rising in April, so to give people some peace of mind, we're keeping the energy price guarantee at its current level until the summer when gas prices are expected to fall.

“Continuing to hold down energy bills is part of our plan to help hardworking families with the cost of living and halve inflation this year."

The cap had been due to rise to £3,000 in April, but falling energy prices mean that the current level can be extended to “bridge the gap" until costs fall below the cap.

Budget day strikes begin as doctors, teachers, and Tube workers walk out

Wednesday 15 March 2023 07:50 , Josh Salisbury

Alongside the Budget, today’s news agenda is dominated by a wave of strikes.

London Underground workers, teachers, junior doctors and border force staff are among those walking out.

As many as 150,000 civil servants are also expected to walk out as well as university lecturers in what is expected to be the biggest wave of strikes since December.

Many of the walkouts have been deliberately timed to coincide with the Budget today.

For London commuters, it is causing particular misery: TfL is warning there will be “little or no” Tube service throughout Wednesday.

For all the latest on strikes throughout the day, visit here.

What is expected in today’s Budget?

Wednesday 15 March 2023 08:04 , Josh Salisbury

Alongside the now confirmed extension of the energy price cap, here are some other measures which are expected to be in the Budget:

- Tax on fuel is expected to be frozen, for both the duty applied to it and VAT.

- An increase in the tax-free lifetime allowance (LTA) on pension savings, reported to rise from £1.07 million to as much as £1.8 million.

- Paying childcare support to parents on Universal Credit upfront, rather than in arrears, and increasing the amount they can claim.

- A ramping-up of sanctions for claimants who do not look for or take up employment.

- The creation of 12 investment zones - eight in England, four in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, benefiting from tax breaks, each backed by £80 million over five years.

- Some £63 million of money to help leisure centres with swimming pools meet energy costs and become more efficient.

- Ending the “prepayment penalty" for energy bills which sees households with prepayment meters charged more than those on direct debit.

Read our full piece here.

Pictured: Ministers begin arriving at pre-Budget Cabinet meeting

Wednesday 15 March 2023 08:33 , Josh Salisbury

Ministers have begun arriving at a pre-Budget Cabinet meeting.

Rishi Sunak is chairing Cabinet at 8.30 am, before the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt leaves No 11 at around 10.45am.

The regular Prime Minister’s Questions will be held at noon in the Commons, with the Budget speech beginning immediately after.

Labour will then get to respond with a speech of its own.

 (Jeremy Selwyn)
(Jeremy Selwyn)

Energy bill cap extension ‘does not go far enough’, say Lib Dems

Wednesday 15 March 2023 09:01 , Josh Salisbury

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokeswoman Sarah Olney said the extension of the current energy price guarantee “does not go far enough".

She said: “Instead of a sticking plaster for another three months, we need meaningful action now.

“The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Chancellor to cut energy bills by £500 per household. This would make a significant difference to households and the Government can afford to do it, they are choosing not to.

“In three months' time families will once again be facing a cliff edge of unaffordable heating bills."

Martin Lewis welcomes energy price cap freeze

Wednesday 15 March 2023 10:00 , Josh Salisbury

Consumer champion Martin Lewis has welcomed the announcement that the energy price cap will be extended for three months.

Lewis, known as the MoneySavingExpert, had called upon Jeremy Hunt to postpone any rise in the price cap, backed by 131 major charities.

Responding to the announcement, he said: “I’d like to thank the Chancellor for listening. The rise – which would likely only have lasted three months – would have caused disproportionate harm financially and, with more ‘price rise’ letters, to people’s mental health.”

However, he warned: “Of course, this doesn’t mean bills will get cheaper. In April we see the end of the winter energy support – the £66/£67 a month everyone has received to lower their bills.

“So in practical terms people are still going to pay more than they have been, but at least some of the planned rise has been forestalled.”

Budget changes to childcare will be ‘almost lifechanging’, says mum

Wednesday 15 March 2023 10:24 , Josh Salisbury

The mother of a 16-month-old has called the Government's expected announcement to extend funded childcare for one and two-year-olds “almost life-changing" for her family.

Nora Parr, a part-time academic based in Hornsey, north London, said she and her partner currently pay £1,040 a month for four half-days of nursery a week for their daughter.

“The news is exhilarating," the 40-year-old told the PA news agency.

“We could apply for a mortgage, I could work more... (I) pick up the baby after lunch and finish work during her nap, every minute of childcare is spent on working hours. I could have five minutes to myself!

“The nursery is brilliant, but it takes a big chunk of our budget. The change to our finances would be almost life-changing... It would save us 1000+ a month."

No10 releases images of Cabinet ahead of Budget

Wednesday 15 March 2023 10:45 , Josh Salisbury

Number 10 has released a series of images of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt informing the Cabinet of his Budget proposals.

The images have been released ahead of the Chancellor’s address to the House of Commons at 12.30pm.

 (Rory Arnold / No10 Downing Street)
(Rory Arnold / No10 Downing Street)
 (Rory Arnold / No10 Downing Street)
(Rory Arnold / No10 Downing Street)

Hunt poses for traditional photograph with red briefcase

Wednesday 15 March 2023 11:19 , Josh Salisbury

The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has left No11 Downing Street ahead of his Spring Budget address to the House of Commons at 12.30pm.

Mr Hunt posed with the traditional red briefcase outside No11, before heading off to Parliament.

 (Rory Arnold / No10 Downing Street)
(Rory Arnold / No10 Downing Street)
 (Rory Arnold / No10 Downing Street)
(Rory Arnold / No10 Downing Street)

Sunak: Budget will deliver on administration’s priorities

Wednesday 15 March 2023 11:52 , Josh Salisbury

Rishi Sunak told the Cabinet that Wednesday's Budget would deliver on three of his administration's five priorities, No10 has said.

According to a Cabinet readout, issued before the Chancellor gets to his feet in the Commons after PMQs, Mr Sunak “said it was no mistake that three of the Government's five priorities were focused on the economy.

“He said the Budget will deliver on all three, with a particular focus on growth. He also thanked the Chancellor and the Treasury team for their swift work in securing the sale of the UK arm of the Silicon Valley Bank to HSBC."

The readout said that Mr Hunt, setting out his Budget measures, thanked colleagues “for their support over recent weeks".

“He set out the improved economic picture following his autumn statement, explaining it paved the way for this Growth Budget."

“He referenced plans for deregulation with Brexit freedoms, plans to invest billions in carbon capture and storage and develop nuclear energy, a boost to levelling up through 12 investment zones across the UK and a significant package to help people get into work, ranging from support for the over 50s, those on benefits, parents, and those with long-term health conditions."

Pre-Budget PMQs begins

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:04 , Josh Salisbury

PMQs has begun ahead of the Budget, with Rishi Sunak being asked by Labour MP Jess Phillips about his illegal immigration bill.

She asks about Government communications suggesting that those coming here illegally could be denied access from the UK modern slavery protections.

Mr Sunak responds: “We have a proud record of supporting victims of modern slavery ... and that will not change as we grip illegal immigration.”

Starmer: Sunak needs to ‘stand up to snowflake backbenchers'

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:10 , Josh Salisbury

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer asks about the BBC Gary Lineker row, accusing Rishi Sunak of being too weak to stand up to “snowflake” MPs.

Mr Starmer says: “The sight of them howling with rage over a tweet, signing a letter in the dozens, desperately trying to cancel a football highlights show.

“It should have been laughable. Instead it led to a farcical weekend, with the national broadcaster accused of dancing to the Government’s tune by its own employees.

“Rather than everyone else, why doesn’t he take some responsibility and stand up to his snowflake MPs waging war on free speech?”

Mr Sunak accuses his of political opportunism, and says the BBC/Gary Lineker row is a matter for the broadcaster.

Starmer questions BBC chairmanship

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:14 , Josh Salisbury

Keir Starmer returns to the BBC row, asking Rishi Sunak if he accepts whether concerns about the BBC because “the Government chose to put a Tory donor with no broadcasting experience in charge of the BBC”?

This is a reference to BBC chair, Richard Sharp.

Mr Sunak responds: “As he well knows, the BBC chairman was appointed before I became prime minister ... There was a rigorous, independent and long-established process.”

Starmer returns to the question, asking whether Mr Sharp’s position is tenable.

Mr Sunak says he will not pre-empt and prejudge a review into Mr Sharp’s position.

Starmer accuses Sunak of ‘mealy-mouthed’ platitudes over BBC Lineker row

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:18 , Josh Salisbury

Rishi Sunak has insisted he cares about BBC impartiality in response to accusations of Tory pressure on the broadcaster from Labour’s Keir Starmer.

“I care about the integrity and impartiality of our insititutions, the BBC but also the civil service,” he says. “It’s right those processes carry on properly.”

Mr Starmer accuses him of “mealy-mouthed platitudes”, and of hiding behind “playground bullies” in his party trying to force out Gary Lineker from his position.

Mr Sunak responds: “We’re not going to take any lectures on cancel culture from the party opposite ... The only thing he and his party has done is vote against our bill to stop the boats. Siding with people smugglers over the British people.”

Londoners ‘being inflicted with misery’ by transport strikes, says Sunak

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:25 , Josh Salisbury

Rishi Sunak has said Londoners are being “inflicted” with misery because of “the incompetent running of TfL.”

“It’s worth bearing in mind that the party in opposite not only voted against minimum service levels which would provide respite for the hard-working British public, but the Mayor of London since the pandemic has recieved an additional £6billion for additional transport services,” he said.

“So for us to be in the situation we find ourselves in today is simply unacceptable.”

He had been asked by Bob Blackman, Tory MP for Harrow East to “condemn” the strikes for bringing misery on commuters and condemn Sadiq Khan “for his failure to address” strikes.

Hunt: UK will not enter ‘technical recession’ this year

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:34 , Josh Salisbury

Jeremy Hunt has begun to deliver his first-ever Budget - saying the British economy is “proving the doubters wrong”.

He begins by saying that the Government took “difficult decisions to deliver stability and sound money” and that the IMF “says our approach means the UK economy is on the right track.”

He says the UK will not enter “a technical recession this year”.

He says: “ Today the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that because of changing international factors and the measures I take, the UK will not now enter a technical recession this year.

“They forecast we will meet the Prime Minister’s priorities to halve inflation, reduce debt and get the economy growing. We are following the plan and the plan is working. But that’s not all we’ve done.”

Hunt confirms energy price cap freeze and says inflation expected to halve

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:38 , Josh Salisbury

Mr Hunt confirms that the energy price cap will be frozen at its current level and says that inflation is predicted to drop to 2.9% by the end of 2023.

He tells the Commons: “I recognise that even though wholesale energy prices have been falling, there is still enormous pressure on family finances. Some people remain in real distress and we should always stand ready to help where we can.

“So after listening to representations from Martin Lewis and other experts, I today confirm that the Energy Price Guarantee will remain at £2,500 for the next three months.”

Extra charges for prepayment meters to end, Hunt says

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:40 , Josh Salisbury

Mr Hunt announces that charges for pre-payment meters will be brought in line with comparable direct debit charges.

Ofgem has temporarily suspended the forced installation of pre-payment meters after a scandal of energy companies breaking into homes to install them.

The Chancellor says those on pre-payment meters are “are often the poorest households, but they currently pay more than comparable customers on direct debit.”

He says: “Today I go further, and confirm we will bring their charges in line with comparable direct debit charges. Under a Conservative government, the energy premium paid by our poorest households is coming to an end.”

Alcohol duty freeze continues until August 1

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:44 , Josh Salisbury

Mr Hunt has announced several other measures including a £63m fund for community centres caused by high costs, such as swimming pools,

He announces a £100m fund to support thousands of local charities and an extra £10m over the next two years to help the voluntary sector play “an even bigger role” in suicide prevention after a campaign.

He also announces an increase in the Draught Relief, so that from 1 August the duty on draught products in pubs will be up to 11p lower than the duty in supermarkets - calling it a “Brexit pubs guarentee”.

Hunt announces freeze in fuel duty

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:46 , Josh Salisbury

Mr Hunt says he will also freeze fuel duty too.

He says: “That saves the average driver £100 next year and around £200 since the 5p cut was introduced.

“The energy price guarantee, fuel duty and duty on a pint – all frozen in today’s budget.

“Something that doesn’t just help families, it helps the economy too because their combined impact reduces CPI inflation by nearly ¾% this year, lowering inflation when it is particularly high.”

Hunt: Tory government is reducing borrowing and improving public finances

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:49 , Josh Salisbury

Moving to the Government’s pledge to get the national debt falling, Mr Hunt says in the final two years of the Government’s forecasr, the current budget is in surplus, meaning it would only borrow for investment.

He says the Government will uprate tobacco duty, and will freeze the gross gaming duty yield bands, as well as bringing forward a range of measures to tackle promoters of tax avoidance schemes.

He says: “Taken together today’s measures lead to a slightly lower overall tax burden for the rest of the parliament compared to the OBR’s Autumn forecast.

“Other parties run out of money, but a Conservative government is reducing borrowing and improving our public finances.”

UK will grow every year after this year, says Hunt

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:51 , Josh Salisbury

Turning to growth, Mr Hunt claims the Conservatives “fixed the roof while the sun is shining”.

He tells the Commons that the OBR forecast says the UK will not enter a recession at all this year with a contraction of just 0.2%.

He says after this year the UK economy will grow in every single year of the forecast period, by 1.8% in 2024; 2.5% in 2025; 2.1% in 2026; and 1.9% in 2027.

Defence spending to rise to nearly 2.25% of GDP - Hunt

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:54 , Josh Salisbury

Defence will be given an additional total of £11bn over five years, says Mr Hunt.

The Chancellor says this comes after a £5bn package of funding for the Ministry of Defence announced by the Prime Minister earlier this week.

He says: “I confirm that we will add a total of £11 bn to our defence budget over the next five years and it will be nearly 2.25% of GDP by 2025.

“We were the first large European country to commit to 2% of GDP for defence and will raise that to 2.5% as soon as fiscal and economic circumstances allow.”

Hunt announces 12 new ‘potential Canary Wharves’ across the UK

Wednesday 15 March 2023 12:58 , Josh Salisbury

The Chancellor announces 12 new investment zones across the UK - comparing them to 12 “potential Canary Wharfs”.

He says these will be in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, the North-East, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, East Midlands, Teesside and Liverpool.

There will also be at least one in each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mr Hunt also announces:

- £400m available for new Levelling Up Partnerships

- £8.8 billion over five years for a second round of the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements for transport improvements

- A further £200m next year for a fund which aims to address potholes

Hunt announces change to business taxes worth £9bn a year

Wednesday 15 March 2023 13:04 , Josh Salisbury

The Chancellor has announced a change to business taxes in a bid to incentivise investment.

Mr Hunt says even after the corporation tax rise due to rise in April, we will have the lowest headline rate in the G7 group of economies.

He says the Government will introduce a new policy of “full expensing” for corporations for the next three years, with the intention to make this permanent.

This means money a company invests in IT equipment, plant or machinery can be deducted in full from taxable profits - with Mr Hunt claiming it would be worth £9bn a year.

Hunt backs nuclear with Government calling it ‘environmentally sustainable'

Wednesday 15 March 2023 13:11 , Josh Salisbury

Jeremy Hunt has announced that the Government intends to classify nuclear power as “environmental sustainable” to unlock further public investment.

Alongside a previoiusly announced £700m investment in Sizewell C, Mr Hunt says the Government will launch “Great British Nuclear” to help provide up to one-quarter of the UK electricity by 2050.

He says the Government will also launch a competition for Small Modular Reactors.

Among other measures being announced for energy security are: -

- Eligible businesses being given £600 million of tax relief on energy efficiency measures.

- Up to to £20 billion of support for the early development of carbon capture usage and storage

Hunt pledges to turn UK into ‘world-leading quantum economy'

Wednesday 15 March 2023 13:17 , Josh Salisbury

Turning to the theme of enterprise, Mr Hunt announces a range of measures:

- A plan to unlock investments in high growth firms by the Autumn Statement

- A “quantum strategy” to turn the UK into a “world leading quantum enabled economy by 2033” totalling £2.5bn

- A prize of £1m a year for the next ten years, to the person or team that does the most ground-breaking AI research

Work Capability Assessment to be removed for disability benefits in major shake-up

Wednesday 15 March 2023 13:22 , Josh Salisbury

The Chancellor has announced a major shake-up of disability benefits, removing the Work Capability Assessment.

Mr Hunt says: “It is the biggest change to our welfare system in a decade.”

This assessment finds out what work-related responsibilities claimants must meet to keep getting full disability benefits.

He also announces a new programme called Universal Support, a voluntary employment scheme for disabled people where the government will spend up to £4,000 per person to help them find appropriate jobs.

Mr Hunt says the Government will fund 50,000 places every single year on the scheme.

He tells the Commons: “No civilised society can ignore the contribution that can be made by those with challenging family circumstances, a long-term illness or a disability.

“So today we remove the barriers we can with reforms that strengthen our society as well as strengthening our economy.”

Hunt pledges stricter sanctions for those refusing ‘reasonable’ offers of work

Wednesday 15 March 2023 13:25 , Josh Salisbury

Sanctions will be increased for Universal Credit claimants without a health condition who fail to meet work-search requirements, or refuse to take up a “reasonable” job offer, says the Chancellor.

Mr Hunt says this is a more intensive conditionality regime, in a bid to get more people into work.

He tells the Commons: “Independence is always better than dependence, which is why a Conservative government believes those who can work, should.”

Hunt abolishes lifetime pension tax limit

Wednesday 15 March 2023 13:29 , Josh Salisbury

In an unexpected move, the Chancellor has announced the removal of the £1m the pension lifetime allowance. He had been expected to announce an increase in the limit.

The allowance is the total amount of money you can build up in a workplace pension scheme before facing further taxes.

Alongside a more generous yearly limit, Mr Hunt says: “These changes will stop over 80% of NHS doctors from receiving a tax charge, incentivise our most experienced and productive workers to stay in work for longer, and simplify our tax system, taking thousands of people out of the complexity of pension tax.”

Free childcare for under-fives announced in major package

Wednesday 15 March 2023 13:34 , Josh Salisbury

As expected, the Chancellor has announced a significant package on childcare provision.

Mr Hunt has announced 30 hours of free childcare every single child over the age of 9 months - not just for three or four-year-olds as is currently the case.

Households where all adults are working at least 16 hours will be eligible.

Mr Hunt says: “The 30 hours offer will now start from the moment maternity or paternity leave ends.”

The Chancellor says the move, alongside other reforms, is a package worth on average £6,500 every year for a family with a two-year-old child using 35 hours of childcare every week.

However, the provision will be rolled out in stages, meaning parents will not get the childcare offer straight away.

Hunt ends speech: ‘Declinists are wrong and optimists are right'

Wednesday 15 March 2023 13:37 , Josh Salisbury

The Chancellor has wrapped up his Budget to cheers from the Conservative benches.

He says: “In November we delivered stability. Today it’s growth. We tackle the two biggest barriers that stop businesses growing - investment incentives and labour supply.

“The best investment incentives in Europe. The biggest ever employment package. For disabled people, more help. For older people, barriers removed.

“For families feeling the pinch, fuel duty frozen, beer duty cut, energy bills capped.

“And for parents, 30 hours of free childcare for all under 5s. Today we build for the future with inflation down, debt falling, and growth up.

“The declinists are wrong, and the optimists are right. We stick to the plan because the plan is working.”

Starmer: Tory Budget ‘leaves us sick man of Europe again'

Wednesday 15 March 2023 13:47 , Josh Salisbury

Labour is now responding to the Budget - with party leader Keir Starmer accusing Hunt of being “out of touch”.

He tells the Commons: “The more he [Hunt] pretends everything is fine, the more he shows just how out of touch they are.

“After thirteen years of a Conservative government, our economy needed major surgery. But like millions across our country, this Budget leaves us stuck in the waiting room with only a sticking plaster to hand.

“A country set on a path of managed decline, falling behind our competitors, the sick man of Europe once again.”

Free childcare boost ‘big extension to welfare state’ - IFS

Wednesday 15 March 2023 13:52 , Josh Salisbury

One of the Budget’s big offers - a big expansion of free childcare to the under-fives - has been welcomed by a leading thinktank.

The director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) Paul Johnson said: “Extending free childcare to all children over 9 months really is a big extension of the welfare state.

“(Probably) about doubles childcare spending. We've been edging in this direction for a good 20 years. This is a new leg of the welfare state finally nearing its end point.”

Starmer: Tory Budget has a ‘poverty of ambition'

Wednesday 15 March 2023 14:03 , Josh Salisbury

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer has accused the Chancellor of not meeting the scale of the country’s problems in the Budget - a “poverty of ambition”.

He told the Commons: “I was waiting for him to match Labour’s ambition, I was waiting for him to match our plan to train more doctors and nurses to tackle the capacity crisis, a policy he publicly praised just fifteen days before he became Chancellor.

“And yet it never came... If there was ever a symbol of the poverty of ambition, that was it, because a country getting sicker is a country getting poorer.

“And a country getting poorer is a country getting sicker. Health and wealth must go together. Britain can’t afford to be the sick man of Europe - Britain can’t afford the Tories.”

Budget watchdog: Plans lower inflation but debt falls ‘only by narrowest of margins'

Wednesday 15 March 2023 14:06 , Josh Salisbury

The Office for Budget Responsibility said Jeremy Hunt had committed money to “providing more support with energy bills and business investment in the near term, while boosting labour supply in the medium term”.

“This lowers inflation this year and, more significantly, sustainably raises employment and output in the medium term.

“But it leaves debt falling by only the narrowest of margins in five years’ time.”

It says that while the short-term economic outlook has brightened, the economy is still battling with long-term structural issues.

“[The Budget] reverses only part of the costs of the energy crisis, which are being felt on top of larger costs from the pandemic,” it says.

“And persistent supply-side challenges continue to weigh on future growth prospects."

Living standards still expected to fall by largest amount since records began

Wednesday 15 March 2023 14:17 , Josh Salisbury

Living standards are still expected to fall by the largest amount since records began - although the decline is not as bad as had been forecast in November.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said real household disposable income per person is expected to fall by a cumulative 5.7 per cent over the two financial years 2022-23 and 2023-24.

“While this is 1.4 percentage points less than forecast in November, it would still be the largest two-year fall since records began in 1956-57," the OBR said.

This is mainly driven by the rise in energy and goods which the UK imports outstripping wage growth, it said.

Labour’s response to Budget: ‘A sticking plaster for a country needing major surgery'

Wednesday 15 March 2023 14:28 , Josh Salisbury

Sir Keir Starmer branded the Budget a “sticking plaster” for a country that needs “major surgery”.

The Labour leader accused Jeremy Hunt of having “no ambition” to improve the lives of working people as the Chancellor laid out his plan on Wednesday.

The proposals leave Britain “stuck in the waiting room… falling behind our competitors, the sick man of Europe once again”, Sir Keir said.

He added: “This was a day for ambition, for bringing us together with purpose and intent, for unlocking the pride that is in every community, matching their belief in the possibilities of the future. But after today, we know the Tory cupboard is bare.”

Read our full story on Labour’s response to the Budget here.

Full story: Free 30 hours of childcare expanded

Wednesday 15 March 2023 14:34 , Josh Salisbury

One of the big announcements of the Budget was a massive expansion in the provision of free childcare for the under-fives.

Jeremy Hunt unveiled the measure in a bid to encourage more parents back to work - allowing some parents of children as young as nine months to claim 30 hours of free childcare a week. The current policy applies to three and four year olds.

The new policy, which will be introduced in stages until September 2025, will be worth up to £6,500 a year for working families, he said.

To read our full story on this and how it would work, visit here.

‘No British equivalent of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act'

Wednesday 15 March 2023 14:58 , Miriam Burrell

Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union, whose members were on strike today, said today’s budget was a “missed opportunity”.

“There was no plan to bring an end to the real-terms pay cuts endured by Prospect members, who walked out today in their biggest numbers in a decade.

“There was no British equivalent of President Biden’s transformative Inflation Reduction Act to provide much-needed good, green jobs across the UK. There was no reassurance on the future of the Type-32 programme that is critical to securing the future of British shipbuilding.”

Chancellor didn’t ‘offer a single word about the future of public transport'

Wednesday 15 March 2023 15:07 , Miriam Burrell

Marios Alexandrou, the interim president of the TSSA said Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was “unable to offer a single word about the future of public transport”.

“This should come as no surprise because in recent days we’ve seen the absence of leadership on HS2 with Tory delays to this vital project – a mark of outright failure to level up the North.

“What’s needed is a Government that realises that there can be no long-term sustainable growth for our regional and national economies without proper investment in HS2 and our railways more widely as the greenest means of mass transport.”


When does free childcare for one and two-year-olds start?

Wednesday 15 March 2023 15:20 , Miriam Burrell

From April 2024: Working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare per week.

From September 2024: 15 hours of free childcare expanded to working parents of children nine months old to two years old.

From September 2025: Eligible working parents of children aged nine months up to three years old will be able to access 30 hours per week.

See if the childcare reforms apply to you.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Energy bill support wiped out by stealth tax hikes, say Lib Dems

Wednesday 15 March 2023 15:38 , Bill Mcloughlin

The freezing of income tax thresholds will lead to a tax collection of £12billion in 2023-24, the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility show.

The Government’s freezing of tax thresholds will lead to a further total tax of £29.3billion in 2027-28, or a total of £120billion over the coming five years, with 3.2 million people dragged into paying income tax and 2.1 million into the higher rate, analysis from the Lib Dems has claimed.

This compares to the cost of almost £3billion in 2023-24 of extending the Energy Price Guarantee for three months.

Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said: “Conservative stealth taxes are more than wiping out the meagre support being offered to families with soaring energy bills.

“It is a stealth tax bombshell for the hard working middle, coming on top of rising food prices and mortgage payments.

“Jeremy Hunt must come clean about the impact of these tax hikes on households across the country. Families are trying to budget from month-to-month, and they need to know just how bad these tax hikes will be.”

‘Great news for our sectors’, culture minister welcomes Budget

Wednesday 15 March 2023 15:48 , Bill Mcloughlin

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Frazer, has praised the Chancellor’s Budget which includes a £100million support package for frontline charities.

Local Government Association responds to Budget

Wednesday 15 March 2023 16:04 , Bill Mcloughlin

In response to the Budget, councillor James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, welcomed some funding measures announced by the Chancellor but criticised the lack of money going to adult social care, public health and children’s services.

He said: “It is good that the Chancellor has acted on council calls for funding and measures to widen employment support, improve local roads, protect swimming pools from rising costs and funding for vital regeneration efforts.

“Lower borrowing rates for councils will also provide a boost for vital council housebuilding projects.

“A third round of levelling up funding will give councils the opportunity to forge ahead with ambitious plans to transform their communities and unlock potential for more local growth.

“However, we remain clear that levelling up should be locally led by evidence of where crucial investment needs to go to, not based on costly competitive bids between areas.

“Given this is a ‘back-to-work’ Budget, it is disappointing there is no further investment in adult social care, public health and children’s services, which all play a vital role in supporting economic growth and helping people back into work, alongside boosting people’s health and wellbeing.”

Adding: “We want to work with government on a long-term funding plan which ensures councils have adequate resources to deliver local services for our communities.

“Alongside sustainable long-term investment in local services, bringing power and resources closer to people is also key to improving lives and building inclusive growth across the country, and many more places are ambitious to follow in the footsteps of the devolution trailblazers which are a positive step towards more local decision making.”

Budget will have ‘marginal impact,’ says IFS

Wednesday 15 March 2023 16:19 , Bill Mcloughlin

Although the Budget will have a “marginal impact” on the economy, it will still be a “positive one”, the head of the Institute for fiscal Studies (IFS) has said.

In his initial response to the Budget, IFS director Paul Johnson said the "likely doubling" of spending on child care would help "ten, but not hundreds, of thousands" of parents back into work, provided it was properly funded.

Mr Johnson said the pension tax changes were designed to encourage a relatively small number of better-off workers to stay in the workforce a bit longer and were "unlikely to have a big effect on overall employment".

"Overall these look like a sensible set of changes which could have the sort of marginal, but positive, impact which is perhaps as much as we can expect from measures in a single Budget," he said.

Mr Johnson also criticised the Chancellor's decision to spend £6 billion on freeze fuel duty, rather than other priorities.

"There was no funding to be found to improve the pay offer to striking public sector workers, where £6 billion might have been enough to make an inflation-matching pay offer possible this coming year," he said.

"That's a political choice. Money for motorists, but not for nurses, doctors and teachers."

Jeremy Hunt’s defence spending will not allow ‘hollowed-out army to be regenerated’, a senior Tory MP has warned

Wednesday 15 March 2023 16:45 , Barney Davis

Jeremy Hunt’s spending plans for defence will not allow Britain’s “hollowed-out army to be regenerated”, a senior Tory MP has warned.

Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the Commons Defence Committee, said the Chancellor has left “just £1 billion a year” to improve the country’s conventional forces.

The bulk of the money will be taken up by spending on the nuclear deterrent, Ukraine support and ammunition replenishment, Mr Ellwood said.

The former defence minister insisted further cash is needed given the world is “sliding towards a new Cold War” and he urged the Treasury to reconsider its approach.

Chancellor Mr Hunt said the Government would add £11 billion to the defence budget over the next five years.

Labour MP hits out at Budget at Trafalgar rally

Wednesday 15 March 2023 16:56 , Barney Davis

Zarah Sultana, the MP for Coventry South, has spoken to crowds of thousands at the rally at Trafalgar Square today.

She said: “Unlike a lot of MPs I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. What I did have were teachers who encouraged me and who taught me so much, I simply wouldn’t be here without them.

“You’re here today because you’re being let down. Our schools are in crisis, you are overworked and underpaid and you’re not the only ones.

“You can see that from the budget today. We’ve got a budget for the bankers and big corporations and the very rich, but no one else.

“The Government has no answer so instead they whip up hatred and fear.

“It’s not refugees that drive down wages and hike up rents, it’s greedy bosses and wealthy landlords.

“It’s not refugees that have let our schools and hospitals fall into ruin, it’s this Tory Government.”

Striking members of the National Education Union (NEU) on Piccadilly march to a rally in Trafalgar Square, central London, in a long-running dispute over pay. Picture date: Wednesday March 15, 2023. (PA Media)
Striking members of the National Education Union (NEU) on Piccadilly march to a rally in Trafalgar Square, central London, in a long-running dispute over pay. Picture date: Wednesday March 15, 2023. (PA Media)

Chancellor banged in ahead of 1922 Committee speech

Wednesday 15 March 2023 17:15 , Barney Davis

Jeremy Hunt has arrived at Committee Room 14 to address the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs.

Speaking to reporters briefly as he arrived, the Chancellor said he would be talking to Tory MPs “about the way this is going to help them win an election”.

He said he would be telling them: “There is no path for us without a reputation for economic competence.”

He was greeted with the customary banging of tables by his party colleagues.

Chancellor just joking about Eleanor Laing’s age

Wednesday 15 March 2023 17:31 , Barney Davis

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said he was “pulling the leg” of Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing, when he referenced her age as he announced ways to keep older people in the workplace during his Budget speech.

“I had a very friendly conversation with Eleanor, we know each other well enough to pull each other’s legs and she concurred”, he told reporters.

“She is very old friend of mine,” he told reporters in brief remarks as he attended a 1922 Committee meeting.

Chancellor leaves meeting with backbenchers

Wednesday 15 March 2023 17:57 , Miriam Burrell

The Chancellor left the meeting with the 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs after just over half an hour.

Tory MPs went on to praised Jeremy Hunt, with one saying that all attendees were “very happy” with “no discordant voices”.

Another, West Yorkshire MP Jason McCartney, said he was already “getting feedback” on the Budget measures, referencing the new childcare reforms and support for business.

He said it had “lots of positive elements”.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Hunt defends pension tax changes

Wednesday 15 March 2023 18:42 , Miriam Burrell

Jeremy Hunt has defended his pension tax changes amid criticism they represent a significant giveaway to higher earners.

The Chancellor told BBC News: “Of course we want to help older people stay in work. By definition they will generally be on higher salaries, but nearly five times more help is going to young parents.”

Pictured: Jeremy Hunt at London nursery

Wednesday 15 March 2023 18:50 , Miriam Burrell

Following his Spring Budget announcement which revealed changes to childcare support for parents on universal credit, Jeremy Hunt visited the Busy Bees Battersea Nursery.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
 (via REUTERS)

600,000 beneficiaries may have support cut under Budget reforms - thinktank

Wednesday 15 March 2023 19:04 , Miriam Burrell

More than half a million people on benefits – including those recovering from surgery – are likely to see their support cut back as a result of the Government’s welfare reforms, a think tank has said.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced the scrapping of the work capability assessment (WCA) to assess eligibility for sickness benefits.

The reforms would mean only the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) would remain in future.

But the Resolution Foundation has warned that someone who does not have a long-term disability would not necessarily qualify for PIP, meaning that despite being too ill to work they could lose out.

Read more here.

Resolution Foundation has warned more than 600,000 people could see their support cut (PA Wire)
Resolution Foundation has warned more than 600,000 people could see their support cut (PA Wire)

Senior Tories call for rethink on corporation tax rise

Wednesday 15 March 2023 19:23 , Miriam Burrell

Hiking corporation tax to 25 per cent is “not a good approach” to encouraging investment in the UK, senior Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg has warned the Government.

The former business secretary hit out at the planned tax rise for companies while describing tax allowances in the Budget as an attempt to “salami-slice” the hike to “pretend it’s not much of a rise”.

Jeremy Hunt confirmed the tax on businesses would rise from 19 to 25 per cent in his Budget speech, starting from April.

Read more here.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (AFP/Getty Images)
Jacob Rees-Mogg (AFP/Getty Images)

What is the lifetime allowance for pension savings and why is it being scrapped?

Wednesday 15 March 2023 20:11 , Miriam Burrell

The lifetime cap on pension saving is to be abolished, after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled a package of reforms designed to encourage older people to return to the workforce in his Spring Budget.

The lifetime allowance (LTA) caps the total amount a person can save in a pension without having to pay extra tax.

The lifetime allowance has stood at £1.07 million, with savers incurring tax after that personal pension pot threshold has been exceeded. People were expected to be able to save up to £1.8m over a lifetime.

Find out why it has been scrapped here.

Great British Nuclear - what are the plans?

Wednesday 15 March 2023 20:17 , Miriam Burrell

Jeremy Hunt outlined the Government’s plan to launch Great British Nuclear (GBN) as one solution to bring down down energy costs in the UK.

He announced that the new flagship body would provide “opportunities across the nuclear supply chain to help provide up to one quarter of our electricity by 2050”.

But there are calls for the Government to get on with the job, with GBN being first announced nearly a year ago.

Read more about plans for Great British Nuclear here.

The Chancellor hopes reclassifying nuclear will help drive investment (PA Wire)
The Chancellor hopes reclassifying nuclear will help drive investment (PA Wire)

Sadiq Khan: Budget is ‘missed opportunity’ for London

Wednesday 15 March 2023 21:07 , Miriam Burrell

Mayor Sadiq Khan has claimed that the Government’s Budget is a “missed opportunity” for London, warning that it has left several key transport projects in a state of uncertainty.

The Mayor claimed that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Mr Hunt were instead focused on holding onto the formerly-Labour seats in the North and Midlands which the Conservatives won at the 2019 general election.

Mr Khan asked: ““What about the Bakerloo Line extension south? What about the Croydon-Sutton Tram? What about Crossrail 2? What about the new signalling for the Piccadilly Line?”

Read more here.

Sadiq Khan said the Government had “missed an opportunity” to invest in London in its Spring Budget (Noah Vickers/Local Democracy Reporting Service)
Sadiq Khan said the Government had “missed an opportunity” to invest in London in its Spring Budget (Noah Vickers/Local Democracy Reporting Service)

Live coverage ends

Wednesday 15 March 2023 21:46 , Miriam Burrell

That’s all for our live coverage today.

For a wrap on today’s announcements, click here.