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Rishi Sunak pledges £6 BILLION for the NHS to tackle Covid backlog

Rishi Sunak is expected to unveil a £6billion package of funding for the NHS to ease the growing backlog and undo the enormous damage inflicted during the Covid pandemic in Wednesday's budget. 

The Chancellor is due to set out the investment in NHS capital funding that will support the aim to deliver around 30 per cent more elective activity by 2024-25 compared to pre-Covid levels. 

This is equivalent to millions more checks, scans and procedures for non-emergency patients, the Treasury insisted. 

In a bid to address the backlog of people waiting for checks, tests and scans, and help get waiting lists down, £2.3billion of the funding package will be used to try to transform diagnostic services.  

It comes amid warnings from doctors that backlogs of more than five million patients waiting for non-emergency treatments are 'dangerously close' to crippling the health service. 

But the additional funding is likely to raise eyebrows among Conservatives who are already upset over a lack of tax cuts to help businesses and workers struggling after 18 months of shutdowns.

In September NHS bosses were given a £30billion handout as Prime Minister Boris Johnson clobbered Britons with their highest tax burden since the Second World War. The health service will receive the vast majority of the £36billion raised by a National Insurance hike over the next three years, with social care receiving a £5.3billion slice.  

Rishi Sunak is expected to unveil a £6billion package of funding for the NHS to tackle backlogs caused by the Covid pandemic in Wednesday's budget

An ambulance driving past the front of the Royal Free Hospital in north London

Labour says it would cut VAT on energy bills to ZERO for six months 

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Labour would cut the rate of VAT on gas and electricity bills from 5 per cent to 0 for six months.

She told Times Radio: 'There's a real opportunity now for the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to put their money where their mouth is and at the moment when people are facing an incredibly tough winter with many families and pensioners feeling the squeeze with the prices, particularly of essentials - food and gas and electricity increasing - that the Government could do something immediate and that would automatically reduce bills from next month and that is cutting VAT from 5 per cent to 0 per cent.

'And we would pay for this, and I've been looking at VAT receipts over the last few months.

'VAT receipts have come in £2.2 billion more than what was anticipated and forecast at the last Budget, in a large part because prices have gone up by so much more than anticipated, that money could be used to immediately and automatically reduce the gas and electricity bills of every family, pensioner and individual in this country who is worried about rising gas and electricity prices right now, it's a practical thing that Government could do.'  

And the Liberal Democrats accused the Government of creating a 'tax bombshell' for small and medium-sized businesses by hiking national insurance.

Speaking to Times Radio earlier on Sunday, Mr Sunak said that '(over) the last year, I've been focused on delivering our plan for jobs, protecting people's livelihoods, their incomes, their jobs'.

But he added it was now time to shore up the economy to weather any future storms, telling BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: 'That means strong investment in public services, driving economic growth by investing in infrastructure, innovation and skills, giving businesses confidence, and then supporting working families.

'Those are the ingredients of what makes a stronger Budget and that's what we will deliver next week.'

But the Chancellor faces a number of challenges, not least a warning from the Bank of England's new chief economist that inflation could rise above 5 per cent. 

The waiting list for non-emergency treatment has been rising at a rate of 100,000 per month, up from under four million at the start of the pandemic to more than 5.7 million today, according to The Telegraph.

The number waiting more than 12 months nearly trebled to 292,138 in August, up from 111,026 at the same point last year. That prompted warnings from the British Medical Association that the 'immense backlog of care is dangerously close to crippling our health service'.

To undo the damage inflicted during the pandemic, the Treasury said there will be at least 100 'one-stop-shop' community diagnostic centres across England, including the 44 already announced. 

These centres are expected to help clear most existing test backlogs caused by the pandemic, including for CT, MRI and ultrasound scans, by the end of the parliament.

The Treasury said the additional capacity will also ensure the resilience of the country's diagnostic services in the years to come.

The settlement to tackle backlogs also includes £1.5billion for increased bed capacity, equipment and new surgical hubs to tackle waiting times for elective surgeries.

Each hub will be equipped with four or five surgical theatres designated for critical elective surgeries.

A total of £2.1billion of the £5.9billion total will be invested in technology and data in a bid to improve efficiency and security within the NHS.

It is hoped the new and improved IT will help NHS staff have access to the fastest broadband, and that digital patient records will ensure patients get the best care wherever they are.

The Treasury said the £5.9billion funding is on top of the Government's plan to spend £8billion to tackle the elective backlog over the next three years, and the £97billion additional funding the Government has provided to support health and care since the start of the pandemic.

Mr Sunak said: 'We are committed to getting health services back on track and ensuring no one is left waiting for vital tests or treatment.

No sugar tax then? Sunak reveals his pre-Budget prep includes a Twix and a Sprite

Rishi Sunak has revealed his 'pre-game routine' will be to have a Twix and a can of Sprite before delivering his Budget on Wednesday.

The Chancellor, who has a self-confessed 'sugar problem', and has previously said he was a 'total coke addict' - before clarifying that he meant the fizzy drink, not the class A drug - was asked on Times Radio whether he had any rituals or superstitions ahead of the event.

And he said: 'I have a general pre-game routine, pre-match routine, for when I have to do parliamentary things which is, look, I have a sugar problem so I tend to have a Twix and a can of Sprite, even though my favourite thing is Coke but I save that for afterwards.

'But I have a Twix and a can of Sprite which Lisa who runs my office always make sure is sitting there on my desk in Parliament, so that is my immediate pre-game kind of booster.'

Mr Sunak also said his children 'have a lot of input generally on the tie selection and I sometimes wear some bracelets that they make'.

He said: 'So that is the general superstition and tradition, but they are all in Yorkshire for half term so I'm not sure how we're going to manage all of that, we'll have to do it on Zoom in the morning probably.'

The Chancellor, who has previously spoken about being a fan of Peloton, a stationary exercise bike with a digital screen, was asked whether he would be able to fit in a 6am ride before the big event.

He said: 'Probably not. My routine over the last week has slightly had to take a backseat to getting everything ready for Wednesday, sadly.'

'This is a game-changing investment in the NHS to make sure we have the right buildings, equipment and systems to get patients the help they need and make sure the NHS is fit for the future.'

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: 'Our phenomenal NHS has worked so hard to keep people safe during the pandemic and we'll do whatever it takes to make sure people are getting the treatment they need as quickly as possible.

'This £6billion investment will support the delivery of millions more checks, scans and procedures for patients across the country.

'Business as usual won't be enough, that's why we are going to reform care with more community diagnostic centres, new surgical hubs and the latest technology to help recover NHS services by tackling waiting lists.' 

More than £30billion of spending has already been committed across numerous announcements from the Treasury over the weekend, the largest of which being £7billion for transport infrastructure outside of London.

Mr Sunak said £4.2billion of the £7billion spread over five years had already been allocated, but the pot had been topped up by an extra £1.5 billion.

He told Sky News's Trevor Phillips On Sunday: 'It's a great example of levelling up in practice, and it's ultimately just going to create growth in all of those places.'

On Sunday evening it was also announced that £2.6billion would help create up to 30,000 more schools place for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

It comes on top of £500million of investment in early years revealed in recent days.

But when Mr Sunak was asked whether it was a mistake to close Sure Start centres introduced under Labour, the Chancellor insisted the new scheme was different.

He said: 'So what we're announcing is funding to create a network of family hubs which are broader than the Sure Start centres, and they bring together lots of different services for new parents, and for the first time, we're going to roll those out.'

Despite the swathe of pre-Budget announcements, Mr Sunak would not be drawn on whether he could rule out tax rises before the next election.

Asked to do so, he joked: 'You're asking me to do my Budget live on your show... I'll do it in Parliament on Wednesday.'

And asked about a letter from England footballer Marcus Rashford in the Sunday Times calling for an extension of free school meals, Mr Sunak told Times Radio: 'You wouldn't expect me to comment on these things in advance of next week.'

Conservatives have accused Mr Sunak of being 'captured by the Treasury' as it was claimed he will only tinker around the edges of the levy, amid widespread calls for reform in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

At the same time, former Cabinet minister David Davis publicly lashed out at the Chancellor over taxes, questioning whether he was a 'Thatcherite', as he has previously claimed.

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, he said: 'I knew Margaret Thatcher, so I will watch with interest whether he can match the brilliance that Thatcher, and her great Chancellor Nigel Lawson brought to government.

'Sadly, every indication so far is that his current course will take us on to the rocks - not away from them.

'I fear Rishi will do so by making a most un-Thatcherite choice to persevere with raising taxes as the solution to ballooning Government debt.' 

Appearing on Sky's Trevor Philips on Sunday, Mr Sunak said his 'instincts' were still for low taxes, but added: 'I wish I hadn't had to deal with coronavirus and a once-in-300 years economic shock and all the damage that has caused to the economy, an NHS backlog stretching into the millions that we thought it was really important, rightly, to get some funding in to address.

'But those are the challenges I am grappling with, and I have to take those challenges and figure out what is the right way to do that and we have made some decisions that I believe, although they are difficult, they are the right decision and the responsible decisions.'

Asked about business rates he added that they would be covered in the Budget but signalled there would be little or no cuts. 

Mr Sunak appearing on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show 

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak 'are on constant manoeuvres' in bid for future leadership of Tory party 

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are on 'constant manoeuvres' to line themselves up as future leaders of the Conservative Party, MPs have told the Daily Mail.

The Chancellor and Foreign Secretary , both long been tipped as potential successors to Boris Johnson , are said to have been 'sounding out' colleagues.

Allies of Miss Truss, including her parliamentary private secretary Bim Afolami, have allegedly been 'working it quite hard' to see if she has a chance.

Mr Sunak, meanwhile, has been 'unashamedly' building support by asking his aides to arrange meetings with MPs to hear their concerns and ideas.

One senior Tory said: 'It was absolutely clear it was nothing to do with MPs' views because there was no follow-up letter. It was just a token gesture, just trying to be accessible and laying the ground for when the leadership race happens.'

Another said: 'Liz and Rishi are on constant manoeuvres, but without actually explicitly saying it.'

'Over the past year-and-a-half through coronavirus we've delivered about £16 billion worth of tax cuts on business rates to help hospitality and retail businesses get through all of this,' he said.

'There are people who say you should just abolish business rates, which I think is what the Labour Party position in. Business rates does obviously raise £25billion, I'm sure you'll be asking her (Labour's Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves) what is the system that is going to replace that if you are going to stand up and say you'd abolish that.

'We have delivered short-term relief during the last 18 months through coronavirus, that support extends through to next year we will be talking a little bit more about the future wand what we can do about business rates next week in the Budget.'

Mr Sunak and Mr Johnson have faced down Tory complaints over their economic plans, insisting that higher taxation must be used instead of increasing public borrowing, as they seek to refloat the economy after the Covid pandemic.

The Chancellor used an article in The Sun to say that the Budget would 'invest in public services, invest in growth, and invest in jobs'. 

'Coronavirus has meant our economy has taken a hit. And in order to recover strongly, we need to be responsible because everything comes at a cost,' he wrote.

'And the money we spend is yours, the taxpayer's money, not anyone else's.

'Earlier this year, I said I would be honest with the country about the challenges we face to ensure our public finances get back on to a strong footing. And the experiences of the last 18 months have made me more certain of how important a strong and resilient economy is.

'That is why this week's Budget and Spending Review will set out a plan to deliver the people's priorities, support business, help our recovery, ease pressures on the cost of living but also to strengthen the public finances so we have a stronger economy for the British people.' 

Mr Sunak is also considering cutting the tax on beer from kegs and sparkling English wine to protect pubs and vineyards from the economic damage wrought by Covid, and imposing a residential property developer tax to pay for the removal of flammable cladding from high-rise buildings.

The levy would be paid by housebuilders with profits of more than £25million who hoard land.

Mr Sunak is also expected to announce £3billion of investment in education, including the quadrupling of places on skills bootcamps and more classroom hours for up to 100,000 16- to 19-year-olds studying 'T levels'.

He will also announce a £435million crime-fighting package in this week's combined Budget and Spending Review - with a particular emphasis on tackling violence against women.

In his statement to MPs on Wednesday, Mr Sunak is expected to say that he has earmarked £355million for measures such as improved street lighting and better CCTV, with a further £80million going to the Crown Prosecution Service.

In an acknowledgement of the national revulsion over the murder of Sarah Everard, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, the Chancellor expects the CPS to devote a significant proportion of the extra funds to improving its response to cases of sexual violence.

£2bn to build more homes: Rishi Sunak is to announce cash injection for tens of thousands of new houses on brownfield land 

Tens of thousands of homes will be built on derelict sites as part of a near-£2billion drive by Rishi Sunak to target brownfield land instead of the countryside for housing.

The Chancellor will announce the fund to transform previously developed land equivalent to 2,000 football pitches in Wednesday's Budget.

In addition, he will unveil plans to spend millions on creating more than 100 'pocket parks' in towns and cities across the country.

The Budget will focus on 'looking to the future and building a stronger economy for the British people', Mr Sunak said last night.

He will also allocate the money available to individual Whitehall departments for the next three years in his Spending Review.

It also coincides with rising alarm over the number of cases around the country of women being drugged after being spiked by injection or through having their drinks tampered with in nightclubs.

Exact details of the funding were still being thrashed out with Justice Secretary Dominic Raab this weekend, with Mr Raab understood to be the last Cabinet Minister to reach agreement with the Chancellor over the final Spending Review settlement.

It comes as research commissioned by the Lib Dems said businesses with fewer than 250 employees would pay an extra £2.4billion a year due to the 1.25 per cent rise in national insurance announced by the Prime Minister in September to cover the cost of social care.

Research from the House of Commons showed areas such as Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and areas of London were set to pay tens of millions extra.

But other areas in the so-called former red wall, where the Tories took many seats in the 2019 election, are also due to be hit, including Kirklees in West Yorkshire and County Durham, the research shows.

Cornwall, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire are the areas outside of cities where small businesses will pay the most, it shows.

The research said that of the £8billion that will be raised from businesses through the rise, 70 per cent will come from the largest 1 per cent of businesses - those with at least 250 employees.

But Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson, said: 'The Conservatives' broken manifesto promise will create a tax bombshell for the small businesses that are the backbone of our communities. It's little wonder that voters no longer see the Conservative Party as the party of low tax.

'We have already lost far too many treasured shops from our high streets, and too many businesses are drowning in tax rises and red tape.

'Rishi Sunak must give small businesses the chance to grow again instead of clobbering them with a crippling tax rise. The Chancellor is out of touch with small businesses and if he truly cared about their survival, he would cancel this tax hike immediately.

'The Liberal Democrats want to unleash the power of small businesses to create jobs and drive our economic recovery, by giving them the tax cut they need and deserve.'

The party is calling on the Chancellor to slash small and medium-sized businesses' employer contributions at Wednesday's Budget instead of raising them.

On Sunday, Mr Sunak said he wanted to be a tax-cutting Chancellor, despite the Government raising national insurance to pay for social care.

He told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: 'Of course, my instincts are to do that, that's what I believe, I want people to better keep more of their money, I want to reward people for working.

'I think that is a good thing and I think that will help drive economic growth.

'But as we discussed, I've also had to grapple with an economic shock, the biggest in 300 years, borrowing that (is) the highest since World War Two, and things like the elective backlogs in the NHS being at record levels which we want to make progress on. Those are some of the challenges.'

The Government insisted at the time that the rise was needed in order to help the NHS recover from the pandemic and to introduce reforms. 

BUDGET: WHAT HAS ALREADY BEEN ANNOUNCED? 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Sunday that '(over) the last year, I've been focused on delivering our plan for jobs, protecting people's livelihoods, their incomes, their jobs'.

But he said he would now be 'looking to the future and building a stronger economy for the British people'.

These are the announcements that have already been confirmed:

- 'Levelling up' transport

The Treasury said nearly £7billion would be given to areas such as Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and South Yorkshire for projects ranging from tram improvements to introducing London-style improvements in infrastructure, fares and services.

Some £5.7billion will be five-year transport settlements for the regions, while £1.2billion of new funding will go towards transforming bus services to deliver London-style journey times, fares and number of services.

- Digital overhaul for the NHS

A £6billion package of funding will help tackle NHS backlogs and invest in technology and data in a bid to improve efficiency and security within the health service.

The Treasury said the £5.9billion funding is on top of the Government's plan to spend £8 billion to tackle the elective backlog over the next three years, and the £97 billion additional funding the Government has provided to support health and care since the start of the pandemic.

- Health research and development

The Department of Health and Social Care will receive £5billion over the next three years to fund research and development in areas such as genome sequencing and tackling health inequalities.

Part of the package will include genome technology to allow doctors to detect more than 200 conditions in babies, compared with existing tests which can only identify nine.

Some £95million of the funding will go towards the Office for Life Sciences to help with cutting-edge innovations to help treat cancer, obesity and mental ill health.

- A 'skills revolution'

A cash injection of £3billion will be given to both post-16 education but also to adults later in life.

Mr Sunak will announce the number of skills boot camps in areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and nuclear will be quadrupled.

Some £1.6 billion will provide up to 100,000 16 to 19-year-olds studying for T-levels - technical-based qualifications - with additional classroom hours, while 24,000 traineeships will also be created.

- Tripling of funding for special educational needs and disabilities

New school places for children with disabilities and special educational needs will be created with a £2.6billion pot.

Mr Sunak is expected to almost triple the amount of this year's capital funding for the most disadvantaged young people through specialised educational support, with up to 30,000 new spots made available.

- Housing on brownfield sites

The Treasury said a £1.8billion package of investment would help regenerate land and level up the country.

Mr Sunak will allocate £65million to ramp up England's planning system, including digitisation that will make local plans easier to access and £9million to help local authorities create 100 new urban 'pocket parks' across UK.

- Global Britain Investment Fund

The £1.4billion fund will funnel money into key innovative sectors by handing out grants to encourage internationally mobile companies to invest in the UK's critical industries, including life sciences and automotive.

The fund includes £354million to support investment in life sciences manufacturing, increasing resilience for future pandemics, and more than £800million investment in the production and supply chain of electric vehicles, including in the North East and Midlands.

A new talent network to attract high-skilled workers to the UK will also be set up in innovation hotspots, first in the Bay Area of San Francisco and Boston in the US in 2022, and also Bengaluru in India.

- Boost for museums and galleries

Over three years, £850million will 'breathe life' back into cultural hotspots. The money will be used to restore and upgrade some of the country's most popular institutions such as London's V&A museum, Tate Liverpool and the Imperial War Museum in Duxford.

A total of £125million will go towards helping build a state-of-the-art scientific research centre in Oxfordshire, part of the Natural History Museum.

In addition, more than £75million will be spent to help 110 regional museums and libraries improve their buildings and level up their digital facilities, the Treasury said.

- Protection at the border

Ageing Border Force vessels will be replaced by new cutters as part of a £700million investment to improve the safety of Britain's borders.

The current fleet, which is 20 years old, will be retired and 11 new vessels will come into service to help tackle organised crime and illegal migration at a cost of £74million.

The announcement also includes £628million 'to modernise and digitalise the border', with proposals including a US-style Electronic Travel Authorisation for tourists wishing to come to the UK.

- Finding the next Emma Raducanu

Football pitches, tennis courts and youth facilities will see £700million of funding to help foster the next generation of young talent.

- Maths coaching

Up to 500,000 adults will be able to access a £560million scheme to improve their maths skills, as it was revealed more than eight million people in England have numeracy skills lower than those expected of a nine-year-old, with the North East, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber worst affected.

Mr Sunak will say that through the Multiply programme, people can access free personal tutoring, digital training and flexible courses.

- The new Sure Start?

The Chancellor will announce a range of investments to give children the 'best possible start in life' totalling £500million towards support for families and children, including new family hubs.

Labour has criticised the plans and said it was a mistake to close Sure Start centres, which provided similar services.

Mr Sunak said the new scheme was different.

- Crime prevention

A £435million package of measures aimed at preventing crime will form part of next week's Budget - with a focus on violent offences against women.

The Chancellor is expected to pledge millions for better CCTV and improved street lighting and give £80million in additional funding to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Treasury said part of this funding will 'improve the response to rape and sexual assault cases'.

- Dragons' Den-style investors

Angel investors will be made available to businesses outside of London and the South East.

A £150million pot of funding for the British Business Bank will encourage the development of regional networks of Dragons' Den-style angel investors to help make people's dreams of starting a business a reality.

- Cutting-edge treatment for veterans

Innovative surgery which allows artificial limbs to be permanently fixed to bones could be available for veterans through research grants handed out by a new fund.

Some £5million will be put towards a new UK-wide Veterans' Health Innovation Fund at the Budget and spending review on Wednesday.

The fund would be able to award research grants to develop new surgery techniques and treatment options for amputees and blast victims.

- Post-Brexit tax rule changes

Tax changes will be introduced to try to tempt more of the world's largest shipping companies to UK shores.

Ships that fly the Union Jack and those which help the UK reach net zero will both be more likely to be accepted if applying to the UK's tonnage tax regime.

Mr Sunak will deliver his Budget and spending review to the Commons on Wednesday.