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Jeremy Hunt to deliver tech-laden Spring Budget

The chancellor’s 2024 Budget will cover a £800m funding package to boost public sector productivity through technology, with cash for police tech, the justice system transformation programme and the NHS

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced an £800m funding package to increase public sector productivity, including numerous technology initiatives.

The government hopes the money, announced ahead of the 2024 Spring Budget on Wednesday (6 March), will deliver £1.8bn in benefits by 2029.

The package includes more than £230m for the police to roll out time-saving technology, such as automated redaction of personal information captured on security cameras, or irrelevant faces redacted from body-worn cameras.

It will also be used for implementing video interviews of witnesses and victims, piloting the use of drones as first responders in traffic accidents and using artificial intelligence (AI) to triage calls to the police’s non-emergency number 101.

Hunt also promised to put an extra £34m into expanding the use of AI across government to make it easier to spot fraudulent behaviour, while the government will also run an AI pilot that aims to reduce application processing workloads for planning officers.

The NHS will also receive funding to upgrade 100 MRI scanners in England with AI designed to recognise patterns in scans using machine learning. The government hopes this will ensure more than 130,000 patients a year will receive their test results sooner.

Hunt said the plan was designed to help public servants spend less time on paperwork so they can get back to doing their jobs.

“We shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking more spending buys us better public services. There is too much waste in the system and we want public servants to get back to doing what matters most: teaching our children, keeping us safe and treating us when we’re sick,” he said.

“That’s why our plan is about reaping the rewards of productivity, from faster access to MRIs for patients to hundreds of thousands of police hours freed up to attend burglaries or incidents of domestic abuse.”

As part of the Budget plans, the justice system will be given a £170m funding package to digitise jury bundles, implement software to streamline probation decisions and give officers more robust data, as part of an existing justice system transformation programme.

The programme came under fire by the Public Accounts Committee in June 2023, as it had only completed just over half of its projects but was running out of funding. The programme to transform the justice system has a budget of £1.3bn, but as of December 2022, His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service had spent around £1.1bn delivering 24 of 44 projects.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be given £17m to continue with its programme to modernise services and move towards paperless communications.

The government has also announced £360m to boost manufacturing and research and development (R&D), including a £200m joint government and industry investment in aerospace R&D, covering £30m towards a project that aims to deliver zero-carbon aircraft technology, as well as £73m in automotive technology. 

Commenting on the R&D funding, science and technology secretary Michelle Donelan said: “The UK’s £108bn life sciences sector is driven by the pioneering contributions of over 300,000 highly skilled individuals who transform lives through ground-breaking advancements in drug discovery and diagnostics.

“We fuel this progress by fostering a dynamic environment where cutting-edge technologies like AI and genomics meet world-class research to create the next generation of healthcare solutions, including in our NHS. By investing in advanced manufacturing facilities, we are protecting our communities by ensuring we can rapidly respond to future health emergencies and deliver life-saving innovations when they are needed most.”

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