In the lead-up to Wednesday’s Spring Budget, reports are emerging of the announcements we are likely to see unveiled by the Chancellor.

Jeremy Hunt has already pledged ‘significant’ investment into the UK’s life sciences and manufacturing sectors – the £360 million package he unveiled earlier this week is a combination of government and industry investment – while the Treasury has announced an £800m investment to promote the integration and adoption of technology within public services.

Rhys Merrett, head of technology at PR agency The PHA Group, says the latter – targeting the use of next-generation technologies like AI and drones in addressing significant resource challenges – could benefit areas from healthcare and social care through to policing and legal services.

“Technology naturally delivers efficiency gains, so it comes as no surprise that the UK government is looking to technology to address the limited resources and increased pressure being placed on the company’s public services,” said Merrett.

“AI regularly demonstrates how algorithms can systematically review and analyse reams of data in a matter of seconds, digitalising outdated, manual processes which can be time and labour intensive.”

However Merrett says the use of AI in the UK’s public services needs to be balanced by an appropriate risk assessment.

“As highlighted late last year at the AI Safety Summit, the evolution and use of AI will be determined by the regulatory frameworks that are put in place to effectively govern its use,” he explained.

“This is part of the reason why the private sector is hesitant towards its use of AI, carefully exploring the benefits it could deliver. This same approach needs to be taken by the relevant bodies and government departments, particularly given the sensitive nature of the data that could be handled.”

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Importantly, the 2024 Spring Budget comes at a time when the Conservative Party is preparing for a general election. Current polls suggest a victory to Labour.

“We don’t need a vision; we are not short on bold policy pledges,” said Merrett. “And with any bold pledges, their effectiveness is determined by the outcomes they are likely to deliver. Governments are guilty of falling well short – the Northern Powerhouse strategy is a standout example of this.

“The public is aware of the troubles facing the Conservative Party and know this Budget will be an attempt to win over votes ahead of the next general election. To prevent a barrage of criticism and questions, what needs to be delivered are details backed by numbers. The potential £800m pledge is half a step in the right direction.

“Embracing technology to deliver cost-savings makes sense, but it should not be positioned as the silver-bullet solution. Any use of AI needs to be critically and carefully considered.

“This is more complex given the regulatory and compliance gap that current exists, meaning there is no clear blueprint for its correct adoption.”

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