Hammond puts tech at the heart of Budget 2017

Chancellor hits back at his critics with ambitious proposals for investment in critical national infrastructure, technology, science and skills training.

by the commentator on 22 November 2017 13:46

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His enemies have branded him ‘Eeyore’ – the gloomy donkey from the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A. Milne, but today Philip Hammond looked just a little bit more like Tigger. In a remarkable transformation, the number-crunching Chancellor laid our a detailed plan for investment infrastructure, putting technology at the heart of Britain’s pre-Brexit strategy.

The government, he announced, will be training up 12,000 new computer science teachers to equip the next generation with a raft of new skills for the digital era.

These initiatives got a warm response from education experts.

Michael Mercieca, Chief Executive, Young Enterprise, said: “The Chancellor’s proposals for extra investment in teacher training and support come at a vital time given the UK is facing a major skills crisis. By driving up standards in critical subjects like maths and computer science, we can start building the kind of dynamic, STEM specialist workforce that businesses so badly need.”

Mercieca  continued, “However, so much more needs to be done to prepare the next generation from the world of work. The talents of our young people cannot be measured in terms of exam results alone. That’s why we’re calling for increased emphasis on business skills and financial education in the classroom. Doing so will help create a new wave of young people that are both academically astute and fully equipped for the ever changing world of work.”

Hammond also announced an array of new proposals for investment of Artificial Intelligence (AI), driverless cards and mining of big data.

Technology leaders gave an initial positive reaction to the proposals. 

Rachel Neaman, CEO, Corsham Institute said, “It’s encouraging to see the Chancellor recognising the need for extra investment in the tech sector, particularly the support for skills and STEM subjects like maths and computer science.

"The next generation face myriad new challenges like cybercrime, fake news and online fraud and it’s vital we give them the necessary support in schools to protect themselves.

“However, much more needs to be done to address Britain’s digital divide.

"Too many people are missing out on access to jobs and online education due to limited broadband access and poor connectivity. We need a more comprehensive plan to create a truly inclusive digital society. This means bringing together industry, government and communities to share training and expertise, enabling everyone to prosper in the increasingly competitive digital economy,” she concluded.

Indeed, the Chancellor’s ‘spreadsheet Phil’ image was causing him serious problems in an age when the public want their politicians to have a personality.

Hammond also moved to address criticisms of the current government’s approach, by proposing new house building programmes along with an additional commitment of resource funding of £2.8bn to the NHS in England.

These are testing times for the Chancellor. His enemies are circling and it appears that this year’s budget is a more collaborative affair. Included were announcements around the environment to tackle the obscene problem of plastic waste, with a reference to Michael Gove.

Today was a good day for the Chancellor in a bad year for the government.

He can only the ideas and proposals in this year's budget bring him good fortune for 2018.

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