£8bn extra for health and care heads public sector spending rises

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced what he called a record increase in health and social care budgets of £8bn over the next two years, alongside a £2.3bn increase in education spending over the next two years.

Health and social funding will also increase by £1.5bn in Scotland, by £1.2bn in Wales and by £650 million in Northern Ireland.

But Hunt said alongside the increases in spending, the government would appoint Tony Blair’s former health secretary Patricia Hewitt to advise on efficiency.

The NHS budget would increase by £3.3bn in the NHS budget over the next two years, with an increase of £4.7bn in social care – partly to free up some of the 13,000 hospital beds occupied by adults which could be cared for at home.

The Chancellor told Parliament, “We want Scandinavian quality alongside Singaporean efficiency – both better outcomes for citizens and better value for taxpayers.”

Hunt noted 630,000 adults of working age were on currently not in work, and said 600,000 people currently on universal credit must meet more frequently with a work coach to retain their benefits. Additionally, measures would be put in place to reduce £280m of benefit fraud.

Hunt described education as not only an economic mission but a moral one. He hailed 9-place rise in the UK’s ranking in global league tables for maths and reading over the past 7 years.

But he said he was concerned school leavers did not always have the right skills for employment and said he would appoint Sir Michael Barber as an advisor to work on implementing a “skills reforms programme”.

Overseas aid will be kept at 0.5% of spending until the fiscal situation improved, but he said the government remained committed to the 0.7% level in the long term.

The government remained committed to COP 26 targets of cutting 68% of carbon emissions by 2030, Hunt said hailing the UK’s record as a global leader in reducing emissions.

The chancellor did not announce any major changes to the defence budget, saying any such plans must await an update to the integrated review in the wake of the war in Ukraine. He had asked for this to be completed before the budget in March.

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