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Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond will be giving his Spring Statement. While the government is obliged to produce its predictions for the economy twice annually, under the duress of Brexit negotiations, it seems Hammond is keen to reduce expectation on its projections and deflect attention from his statement today. The government insists that this is as a fiscal 'non-event' and that there will be very few changes to the public purse as a result of the statement.
Is there anything we can expect?
While there have been minimal leaks so far, it seems the government is taking up the mantel of dismantling period poverty and will be recommending that schools maintain supply of free sanitary products available to its female students.
Growth remains subdued as we enter Spring; the economy has grown by 0.2% in the month of January 2019 and it is anticipated that the economy will remain relatively limp. However, the government was afforded a bumper month in January for tax returns and has reclaimed over £21bn in tax returns and income tax. Making steady progress is clawing back from deep deficit, the Chancellor will have more money to play with than before so there may be some growth in funding for services or investment.
Does this mean austerity is over?
Not just yet. While Hammond will be lobbied across parliament for an indication that austerity is now on the wane—particularly by his Welsh colleagues—there is little indication that the end is in sight. Public services, from policing to education and local government, have felt the squeeze on budgets, and with knife crime on the rise this could be a serious battle ground for the government.
Uncertainty over Brexit is certainly a factor in stalling the growth of the UK economy. An almost record low, economic growth UK growth is on a go slow only comparable only to the great economic crash of 2007. While the Chancellor will likely do his best to instill confidence in the market, the economy seems primed to retain a slow tempo for the majority of 2019—or at the very least, until the UK is able to grasp at some certainty in the wake of Brexit.
One big question remains for the chancellor: How will UK employment be affected?
So there's nothing new to look out for?
Not necessarily. As ever though, it's important to listen to what isn't being said, to avoid missing any stealth additions to the statement. The deep freeze for benefits is set to continue, with little relief for those most impacted. Similarly, the fuel duty freeze is predicted to remain on ice for the remainder of 2019.
On the flip side of the coin, the income tax personal allowance is destined to rise to £12,500, providing an ounce of relief for those earning minimum or living wage.
Shrouded by a Brexit dirge, Hammond, may use this as an opportunity to surprise us with a few party tricks, designed to lighten the mood and detract from the hoarse negotiations of a flailing Brexit deal. While he has gone to lengths to retain his stance that 'non event means non event' watch this space for a few sweeteners.
We'll be live tweeting throughout the Statement to bring you the latest from the government. Join the conversation here!
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