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Newsletter, 26/10/21

Over the weekend a number of policies that Onward has championed were trailed in the run up to Wednesday’s Budget and Spending Review. These include:

  • £6.9 billion to support public transport improvements across English regions, reflecting a recommendation made in our report Network Effects.
  • £500 million towards a network of family hubs across the UK, as proposed in our report Age of Alienation.

Last week, the Government announced its long-awaited Net Zero and Heat and Building Strategies. These included a large number of recommendations from our Getting to Zero research programme, including”

  • A commitment to shift renewable energy levies away from electricity bills and onto gas bills over the course of a decade, as we called for in Costing the Earth.
  • An ambition to implement a Sustainable Aviation Fuels mandate, aiming for 10% by 2030, which we called for in Greening the Giants.
  • The creation of new apprenticeship standards and T-levels aligned with net zero, as recommended in Qualifying for the race to net zero.

To see the full list of 8 different Onward policies adopted, read this thread by our Net Zero researcher Alex Luke.

Elsewhere in the media this week:

  • Onward’s Director, Will Tanner, was quoted in the Financial Times, arguing that the Government’s distribution of levelling up funds is not ‘pork barrel politics’ but is driven by the economic necessity of levelling up.
  • James Blagden wrote for the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, arguing that addressing R&D intensity, skills shortages and the crumbling civic realm must be at the forefront of the levelling up agenda.
  • Onward researcher, Jenevieve Treadwell, wrote for Smart Thinking, sharing her thoughts on how in its constitutional centenary power could be better shared in the UK.
  • Margaret Bolton, Director of Policy and Communications at Local Trust, reflected on the recommendations made in our report Turnaround, which reviewed sixty years of regeneration policy and made recommendations for the future.
  • On the latest episode of Centre for Cities podcast, Will Tanner discussed what should be in the Government’s Levelling Up white paper.

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onward team 16 1 - Newsletter, 26/10/21

With the Budget tomorrow, speculation over what will be included in the Chancellor’s statement has hit fever pitch. From funding for R&D projects to help detect rare genetic diseases to investments in better treating veterans, proverbial rabbits are being pulled from hats at breakneck speed.

One of the biggest bunnies trailed so far has been the announcement of £7 billion for levelling up England’s transport connectivity. Just two weeks after Onward’s investigation into regional transport links, Network Effects, highlighted the importance of targeting transport spending towards intra-city transport, the Chancellor has announced an additional £1.5 billion for transport settlements in England’s city regions, in addition to £4.2 billion announced last year.

Nor is transport connectivity the only measure trailed so far that seeks to strengthen community. Over £700 million has been pledged to deliver hundreds of new community sports pitches on which the next Marcus Rashford can hone their skills, as well as for building or refurbishing up to 300 youth facilities to ensure children and young people can access vital clubs like the Scouts. Similarly, £850 million will be invested in cultural landmarks, such as the museums and galleries that generate so much local pride within communities.

Perhaps most significantly of all, the Chancellor has announced £500 million to invest in preventing family breakdown, supporting expectant parents’ mental health, and opening 75 new Family Hubs. These Hubs, a key recommendation in Onward’s recent Age of Alienation report, will provide a one-stop-shop for families to access public services, supporting them to raise happy and healthy children.

That so many of the measures announced so far focus on strengthening local economies, communities, and families, is significant. As early as October 2019, Onward analysis in The Politics of Belonging highlighted that security, both economic and cultural, was what a majority of voters across the UK craved above all. The indications so far suggest that the Chancellor was listening – and that Wednesday’s Budget may well be a Budget for Belonging rather than the dry financial statements that some may have become accustomed to.

Luke Stanley, Senior Researcher at Onward
Policy Bites
  • £500 million has been pledged to create a network of ‘family hubs’ that will serve as a ‘one stop shop’ for young families. They will provide support for mental health, breastfeeding, and family planning to improve the health and development of babies in England. Link
  • English regions are to receive a funding boost to improve public transport connectivity. A total of £6.9 billion has been allocated for train, tram, bus and cycle projects, with £1.2 billion to improve bus services. Link
  • £850 million of funding has been announced to “breathe new life” back into over 65 highstreets across Britain. The money will focus on “heritage hotspots,” including £75 million for 110 libraries and regional museums to improve physical and digital infrastructure. This focus on heritage preservation is in line with recommendations made in our report ‘Turnaround.’ Link
  • The Government is understood to be looking to limit the number of students studying degrees with lower salary returns in a bid to control spiralling costs. One method apparently being considered is the introduction of minimum A-level grades to raise the entry bar for some courses, Onward proposed the introduction of a minimum grade floor in our report ‘A Question of Degree.’ Link.
Quick links
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That will take more than a tweak to fee rule

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