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The budget is now just under a month away. The last fiscal event focused on restoring stability after a fractious few months. That job is not over: inflation is creeping down but any bumper settlement to resolve transport and public sector strikes could see it rise again. So the Government is scouting for measures that offer big political wins at little cost – boosting economic growth while also providing relief to families struggling with the cost of living. Such ideas don’t come around very often. 

Childcare is one area that offers a win-win(-win). Providing relief to parents with young children increases financial resilience, reduces economic inactivity and hits an issue that’s top of mind for swing voters. The headline-grabbing proposals often have big price tags: the estimated cost for extending 15 and 30 hour subsidies to one and two year olds is around £6 billion. But without reforming the childcare system, more investment is throwing good money after bad. When it comes to measures to support childminders and nurseries, there is plenty of low hanging fruit – including reforms to staff training, nursery business rates, public sector landlords, and childminder agency regulation. 

The new “trailblazer” devolution deals being negotiated with Andy Street and Andy Burnham might also flush out proposals that sit in the middle of this tricky venn diagram. Devolution isn’t just about new money, it’s about shifting control and accountability to improve delivery. To take just one example: bringing people with disabilities and long term illness back into the workforce is an area where delivery really matters. Success means new income streams for struggling households and new recruits for businesses with long vacancy lists. Given the right tools, mayors can be the lynchpin between job centres, training providers, employers, and parts of the public sector. The budget is an opportune moment to announce a bumper package to empower local leaders in supporting people back to work.

The Prime Minister is right to focus on calm and competent government. If his five promises are delivered by the end of the year, the Conservative Party is more likely to get a fair hearing from the electorate at the next election. But the budget must offer a hint of more to come. The Chancellor needs to be forward-looking without being flashy, sketching out the values that can guide the Government in 2024. That balance – between the prophetic and the practical – will be hard to strike.

– Adam Hawksbee, Deputy Director

News and media

Onward’s latest report, Levelling Up Locally, has continued to receive coverage in The Guardian & The Sun on Sunday. The report also made local news with coverage from BBC Midlands and local papers: The North Devon Gazette & Clacton Gazette.

Siobhan Baillie MP wrote for Conservative Home calling for the Chancellor to boost childcare in the budget, citing Onward’s First Steps report. Also on childcare, Adam Hawksbee was quoted in The i.

Onward’s new starters were announced in POLITICO’s London Playbook.

Upcoming event

Onward After Hours with Miriam Cates MP

On Tuesday, 21st February 2023, we will host a private drinks reception with Miriam Cates MP.

Onward After Hours is our event series for under 35s, connecting the next generation of centre-right political thinkers. These events bring together journalists, special advisors, parliamentary staffers and more, to inspire fresh thinking and build connections.

If you would like to attend this event, sign up here.

Event Graphics 2023 4 1 - Budget countdown

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