Budget 2017: Brexit largely overlooked as social care takes centre-stage

Philip Hammond made little reference to Brexit in his speech

Philip Hammond's budget was surprisingly Brexit-free

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Chancellor Philip Hammond has revealed his Budget - with almost no mention of Britain's departure from the European Union.

Brexit had been expected to take centre stage, with analysts predicting Mr Hammond would announce an emergency war chest to deal with Britain's secession from the EU.

However there was almost nothing said about Brexit, which might not be surprising as Mr Hammond is known to dislike the idea of a 'hard Brexit' which has been championed by many of his colleagues.

Instead of Brexit, the headline news was a £2 billion investment to plug the gaps in social care provision, a topic which has prompted feverish debate and criticism in recent weeks, along with a pledge of £100 million to place more GPs in A&E departments

Education was another key pillar of the statement, with Mr Hammond pledging £216 million of extra investment in schools, and £300 million to support new PHD places and fellowships in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).

Mr Hammond also announced the introduction of new 'T-levels' to aid technical education, and pledged a 50% increase in training hours for technical students aged between 16 and 19.

Announcing his first Budget since succeeding George Osborne as chancellor last summer, Mr Hammond revealed higher growth figures than previously forecast, and an improved outlook on borrowing. However he stressed that the austerity programme will not be abandoned in favour of higher public spending. 

Although many commentators suggested the Budget was largely dull and lacking in inspiration, the consensus is a positive one, with analysts suggesting the growth figures announced by Mr Hammond are better than expected.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, however, was quick to criticise, asking why there is no ban on the hugely controversial zero-hours contracts, adding that there is a "crisis in job security" across the UK.