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NatCen Insights: Autumn Budget 2017

Posted on 22 November 2017 by NatCen, Research
Tags: British Social Attitudes, NHS, alcohol, budget, general election, housing

Today Phillip Hammond delivers his Autumn Budget. Following the snap election, in which the Conservatives lost their majority, and a difficult few weeks since party conference, many see this as an opportunity for the government to reassert itself and gather momentum.

Below, we use NatCen’s data resources to look at how today’s announcements are likely to be received by the public. 


As anticipated, the Chancellor today pledged to up house building to 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of next decade, from its current total of around 217,000. Whether this increase will be enough to seriously combat the housing crisis remains to be seen, but clearly, with English Housing Survey data revealing that the proportion of people in the private rented sector has almost doubled since 2005-6, action of any sort is likely to be welcomed by the public.

Indeed, NatCen data also shows that the prevalence of so-called NIMBYs, people who might oppose house building in their local area, has dramatically decreased in recent years. 

nimbySource: British Social Attitudes Survey

The announced exemption from stamp duty for first time buyers on properties up to £300,000 will be welcomed by those looking to get on the property ladder. Indeed, our First Time Buyers 2017 report found that 8% currently see this as a potential barrier.

NHS Spending

The scheduling of Autumn Budgets means that they are inevitably announced against a back drop of concerns about whether the NHS is equipped to meet winter demand. On Sunday, Phillip Hammond dismissed these fears, and said that there are always those predicting “Armageddon” before a Budget.

Today he has resisted calls from Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS, to grant the health service an extra £4bn a year, but did pledge an extra £350 million for this winter, as well as an extra £1.6bn for 2018.

NatCen data shows that any increase in spending on the health service is likely to be popular, with 85% favouring more funding in this area.

health fundingSource: British Social Attitudes Survey 2016

Public Sector Pay

The 1% cap on public sector pay rises has been in place since 2013, but today, we saw the Chancellor make something of a concession. A modest pay rise for nurses has been assured, on the condition that talks between the Health Secretary and health unions lead to a modernised pay structure.

This announcement may be met with cautious optimism within the profession, but NatCen analysis can reveal the extent of the impact the pay cap has had across the public sector. Indeed, for nurses to return to the income levels that they had in 2010, they would need a 5% pay rise, equating to around £2,000 a year. 

Public Sector Pay

Investment in Technology

As was widely anticipated, the Chancellor pledged his commitment to introducing driverless cars today, as part of a wider strategy of investment in the science and technology sector. In total £500 million is being earmarked for investment in artificial intelligence, 5G and broadband infrastructure.

This move looks set to be a popular one, with data from NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey suggesting that 87% of people are in favour of investment in this sector, with just 1% against.

Investment in Education

Given Hammond’s announcements on technology, his priorities for education should come as no surprise. He set aside £40 million for training maths teachers, and pledged every school £600 per pupil who took A-Level or Core Maths. There was also a promise to triple the number of computer science teachers.

Data from NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey found that, at present, 85% think that secondary schools do “very well” or “quite well” at teaching basic skills including as maths. However, much as with health, any increase in funding is likely to be welcome, with 73% favouring more spending in this area.

Preparing for Brexit

Inevitably, Phillip Hammond also used this Budget to divert money to relevant areas to prepare for Brexit. Even before this morning, four departments had already been handed extra cash, and with HMRC saying that it would need up to 5,000 new staff to cope with a “no-deal” scenario, it’s no surprise to see Brexit high on the list of the Chancellor’s priorities.

In all, the Chancellor stated that he was setting aside £3bn for making sure that Britain was prepared for all Brexit eventualities, including, presumably, a “no-deal” exit.

NatCen collate polling on all things EU and Brexit on our website. The latest numbers from Ashcroft indicate that just 13% of people think that a “no-deal” outcome would be desirable.

Reaching Out To Young People

The Chancellor also used the Budget as an opportunity to unveil a raft of policies aimed at appealing to younger voters, after polling this week revealed that the proportion of under-30s who say they’d vote Conservative has halved since 2015. Alongside the measures on housing already discussed, the hugely popular 16-24s railcard scheme is set to be expanded to all those 30 or under, which will offer hundreds of thousands more young people the chance to save a 1/3 on rail costs.

Electorally speaking, NatCen data suggests that this is sensible politics. Our analysis of the 2017 election broke identified six distinct groups in the electorate. Two of those were groups of young voters (“liberal youth” and “young just-about-managings”), and as you can see in the table below, both of them have become more likely to vote for Labour.  



And finally, Hammond announced an increase in duty on high strength white cider. As the chancellor acknowledged, these drinks are often associated with problem drinking, but it will remain to be seen whether this tax increase will have the desired effect of reducing alcohol consumption.

In contrast, the Scottish Government are introducing Minimum Unit Pricing to achieve the same goal. According to BSA, such a policy would be welcomed by 52% of people in Britain. 


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