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Seetec Responds to the Autumn Budget and Spending Review

News 27 October 2021

The Chancellor has revealed the Government’s spending plans for the next few years, as the country continues to grapple with the pandemic and a rise in cases of COVID-19 that are putting pressure on the NHS as it manages existing winter challenges.

Rishi Sunak has focused his spending plans on public services, attracting foreign investment in UK businesses, infrastructure and skills funding post-16.

It was confirmed that today’s Budget and Spending Review marks the launch of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), which has been allocated £2.6 billion. The UKSPF will in part be used to set up Multiply with £560 million from the overall funding allocation, a new programme to support half a million adults to develop numeracy skills to boost their employment prospects.

The Government also published a new Charter for Budget Responsibility, setting out fiscal rules which will attempt to address underlying public sector net debt and future borrowing by introducing a rule that all spending must be paid for through taxation.

Ian Porée, our Chief Executive, responded to today’s Autumn Budget and the Spending Review, calling on the Government to align its focus on skills with plans for ‘Levelling Up’ all parts of the country to extend more opportunities and end regional inequalities:

“The Chancellor is right to invest in health research and development as the impact of the pandemic continues to weigh heavily across all parts of the country.

“By launching the UK Shared Prosperity Fund today, the Chancellor has provided further clarity about the direction of travel in the short-term. Seetec looks forward to engaging with the Government and local communities about the focus of the funding to ensure it reaches those who most need access to upskilling opportunities and help to realise their ambitions.

“It is good news that the Government has committed £3.8 billion in funding to be used for skills. We also welcome the Chancellor’s announcement that apprenticeship funding will increase to £2.7 billion in the financial year 2024 to 2025. The boost to technical education with more T-Level learner hours is a positive step forward, but as part of the recovery the Government must do more to ensure its plan for skills keeps pace with what is happening internationally, so that we remain competitive and future workers are able to contribute to economic growth as part of the race for a more highly skilled global workforce. More needs to be done to address some of the consequences of the pandemic, including action to deal with acute skills shortages in key sectors.

“Further regional investment in skills provision will be critical too if the Government wants to realise its ambitions for ‘Levelling Up’, but this must be backed by a longer-term reform programme for the sector to deliver greater parity between independent providers and other further education establishments. The White Paper will need to balance the short and long-term impacts of the pandemic to encourage the spread of opportunity and prosperity more evenly across the country. Seetec recently recommended that the Government set up a COVID-specific support fund that is aligned with the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda to meet this challenge. The Chancellor may have missed an opportunity in his Budget to pump prime progress to deliver this key plank of the domestic agenda pursued by Michael Gove in the newly branded department charged with moving it forward.

“Today’s Budget was a reality check that the pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the economy. The Government’s Budget and Spending Review focuses the scope of the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda around upskilling and local infrastructure projects. If the global economic outlook deteriorates, the Government may be forced to show restraint as a result of the spending plans set out for all its departments. Whitehall is still going to have to balance the new Charter for Budget Responsibility rules with the potential for there to be changing circumstance on the ground in the months ahead, meaning the Chancellor may have to pick where he places investment carefully to boost growth to help match the ambitions to achieve the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda in the future.”