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8 March 2017

The winners and losers of the Budget 2017

Selective schools are likely to benefit better off families.

By Julia Rampen

The Chancellor Philip Hammond stood up in the House of Commons to give his Budget 2017 speech. It is the last Spring Budget in what has been an annual ritual much-loved by financial journalists and Westminster hacks, which involves posing with a red box, jokes about economics and the traditional attempt to massage the figures.

But all that aside, what does it actually mean for you?

Here are some of the winners and losers from this year’s Budget:


Middle-class parents

The government has announced more funding for free schools in England (education policy is devolved), which includes faith schools, but also academically selective schools. In other words, grammars are back.

Since study after study shows that existing academically selective schools benefit richer kids, this announcement will cheered by those parents who want to send little Tristan to a good school but also don’t want to give up their ski breaks. It’s not so good if you’re a family eligible for free school meals – just 2.5 per cent of grammar school kids fall into this category

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Technical students 

The government is introducing T-levels, a standardised set of qualifications to replace the 13,000 or so in existence for technical skills. Students going to technical colleges will also be able to apply for maintenance loans currently only available to those going to university. 

Pub landlords

Chancellors love to hand out some free beer, and Hammond is no exception, although this time the big winners are not the drinkers, but the pubs.

Nine in ten pubs – those with a rateable value of less than £100,000 – will get a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017. 

This packet of pork scratchings is designed to ward off the more fundamental changes to business rates, which Hammond said he could not afford to abolish. 

Science PhD students 

Hammond said he was allocating £300m of the additional infrastructure and innovation investment he announced at the Autumn Statement to fund research, specifically through 1,000 new PhD places in science, technology, economics and mathematics. 

But if academics don’t sound overly thrilled, that might be because many scientists rely on EU funding that is about to dry up after Brexit. 


Poorer pupils 

One of the main criticisms of grammar schools is not the idea of promoting academic excellence – even if in practice they act as a middle-class subsidy – but the fact that other schools suffer as a result.

While the shape of selective schools is yet to be revealed, families who don’t find it easy to get their kids into grammar schools may find the standards of other schools deteriorate, as this headteacher warns

The self-employed

Last year, the previous Chancellor George Osborne promised self-employed workers a tax break when he abolished class 2 national insurance contributions (Nics) and a reform of class 4 Nics. 

But Hammond has instead pledged to hike class 4 Nics for those who make more than £16,250 in profits.  This will not hurt the lowest-paid self-employed workers, but it may well incense those who still feel they are just getting by – with none of the perks enjoyed by those working for a company. 

Low-paid families

The Office for Budget Responsibility may not be as pessimistic about the future of economic growth as it was in the autumn, but it is still predicting rising inflation – which translates into rising prices for shoppers on the high street.

Couple this with the fact that the Chancellor has left working-age benefits frozen, and there is little to cheer in this Budget.