Britain’s finance minister has unveiled a cost-of-living budget as the government seeks to keep a grip on public spending in the face of a fresh wave of strikes over pay.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivers his tax and spending plan to parliament from 1230 GMT, as teachers, junior doctors, civil servants, BBC journalists and drivers on London’s underground Tube railway stage the latest day of mass walkouts.
Wednesday’s budget may offer fresh help, according to economists, after the government recorded a stronger surplus than expected in January and the country avoided recession last year.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said the Conservative government wanted to work with unions to achieve “fair and reasonable” pay rises.
“But we’ve been clear that we want to see strike action end before we do so.”
Ahead of the budget, Hunt has flagged increased childcare funding and proposals to encourage Britons aged over 50 to rejoin the jobs market.
The government is also expected to confirm plans to entice those who have dropped out of the jobs market back to work.
It is looking to fill 1.1 million staff vacancies – in part caused by a lack of EU workers following Brexit, and a record number of people classed as long-term sick.
Reports add that Hunt could allow workers to put more tax-free money into their private pensions.
“Reports of senior doctors retiring early due to the impact of pension tax allowances…have undoubtedly been of particular concern to the government given the pressures already on the health system following the pandemic,” noted Tom Selby, head of retirement policy at AJ Bell.
“However, both the lifetime and annual allowance apply across all types of private pensions and so this announcement would increase the retirement savings limits for millions of Brits.”
Britain’s retirement age of 66 is meanwhile set to increase before the end of the decade, meaning a longer wait to access the state pension. Private pensions are available at an earlier age.