Technical training and funding for schools and infrastructure topped the bill for the construction sector as Philip Hammond delivered his spring budget to Parliament.

As expected, the chancellor confirmed plans to invest £500 million a year into technical education with the introduction of T Levels.

Aimed at those aged 16-19, it is hoped the technical alternative to A levels will help boost the skills shortage in 15 different sectors – including construction and engineering – and help make students “work ready”.

“We languish near the bottom of the international league tables for technical education,” said Hammond.

“We need to do more to support our young adults into quality jobs and help them gain world-class skills.

“There is still a lingering doubt about the parity of esteem attaching to technical education pursued through the Further Education route.

“Today we end that doubt for good, with the introduction of T-Levels.”

There was a further boost for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) with an extra £300 million allocated “to support the brightest and the best research talent”.

Hammond also pledged an extra £536 million into building new free schools and improving existing schools “to ensure that every young person, whatever their background and wherever they live, has the opportunity to succeed and prosper.”

The chancellor will plough £690 million into new local transport projects, to improve congestion on roads and public transport and an extra £220m to tackle road congestion with £90 million going to the North and £23 million to the Midlands.

However, the Budget failed to address house building.

Here is a summary of what was announced:

1. The economic forecast

Growth in the UK economy picked up through 2016. Employment has reached a record high of 31.8 million people.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) now forecasts that the UK economy will grow by 2% in 2017. The OBR also forecast that the economy will grow at a slightly slower rate in 2018, before picking up to 2% in 2021.

2. Cutting borrowing and stabilising the public finances

Britain has a debt of nearly £1.7 trillion – around £62,000 for every household in the country.

In 2009-10 the UK borrowed £1 in every £5 that was spent. This year it is set to be £1 in every £15.

Borrowing is forecast to be reduced by nearly three quarters by 2016-17.

3. £2 billion for adult social care over the next three years
This will help councils to provide high quality social care to more people and help to ease pressure on the NHS.

4. £425 million investment in the NHS in the next three years
£325 million will be invested in a first set of the best local Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).

5. Investment in technical education for 16 to 19 year olds rising to over £500 million

6. £300 million investment for new academic research placements
£90 million will provide 1,000 new PhD places, including in science, technology, engineering and maths.

7. Loans for part time and doctoral students from 2018
The government will provide maintenance loans for people entering part time degrees, and doctoral loans of up to £25,000 to support higher-level study.

8. £536 million for new free schools and to maintain existing schools
£320 million will go to new free schools. Free schools are funded by the government but set up by groups like parents, charities or community and faith groups.

9. Free transport for children from poorer families who go to selective schools

10. Tax-Free Childcare will soon be available to working parents
Tax-Free Childcare will provide up to £2,000 a year in childcare support for each child under 12.

11. New ways to protect consumers

The government will investigate ways to protect consumers from unnecessary costs and inefficiencies, including: preventing consumers being charged unexpectedly when a subscription is renewed or a free trial ends; making terms & conditions simpler and clearer including in digital contracts, like when you sign up to a social network; fining companies that mislead or mistreat consumers

12. £270 million to launch the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
Initial funding will support research and innovation in universities and businesses.

13. Improving transport with the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF)

The government is funding improvements to transport infrastructure, including:£690 million for new local transport projects, to improve congestion on roads and public transport;
£220 million to improve congestion points on national roads, with £90 million going to the North and £23 million to the Midlands
supporting local projects in the next twelve months like improvements on the A483 corridor in Cheshire and on the Leicester Outer Ring Road

14. A new strategy to make the UK a world leader in 5G technology

£16 million for a national 5G Innovation Network to trial new 5G technology and £200 million for local projects to build fast and reliable full-fibre broadband networks.

15. A three-year NS&I Investment Bond with a market-leading interest rate of 2.2%

The bond will be available for 12 months from April 2017.

16. The Lifetime ISA will be available from 6 April this year

The Lifetime ISA will allow younger adults to save up to £4,000 each year and receive a bonus of up to £1,000 a year on these contributions.

17. Marking International Women’s Day

A new £5 million fund will go to projects celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act next year, and to educate young people about its significance. The Representation of the People Act (1918) was the first legislative step towards equal voting rights for men and women.

18. Small Businesses and landlords under the VAT threshold will have an extra year to prepare for Making Tax Digital (MTD)

Unincorporated businesses (businesses owned privately by one or more people) that have an annual turnover below the VAT registration threshold will have until April 2019 to prepare before MTD becomes mandatory.

Under MTD, businesses will use digital software to keep tax records and update HMRC quarterly.

19. £435 million to support businesses affected by the business rates relief revaluation

This means no small business that is coming out of small business rates relief will pay more than £600 more in business rates this year than they did in 2016-17.

Funding for local authorities will allow them to provide £300 million of discretionary relief to provide help to businesses most affected by the revaluation.

And from April 2017, pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000 will be able to claim a £1,000 business rates discount for one year.

20. The main rate of National Insurance contributions (NICs) for the self-employed will increase

Currently, the self-employed may have to pay both Class 4 and Class 2 NICs:

Class 4 NICs at 9% are paid on profits between £8,060 and £43,000
Class 2 NICs are paid on profits of £5,965 or more
From 2018, Class 2 NICs will be abolished. Class 4 NICs will rise to 10% in April 2018 and to 11% in April 2019.

Taken together, only a self-employed person with profits over £16,250 will have to pay more as a result of these changes.

This better reflects the fact that the differences in contributory benefit entitlement between the self-employed and employees are now small, following the introduction of the new State Pension in April 2016.

In the summer, the government will also consider whether there is a case for greater consistency in parental benefits between the employed and self-employed.

21. Tax-free dividend allowance will be reduced from £5,000 to £2,000 from April 2018

Via Builder & Engineer. View full article here.

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