CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond delivers his first Autumn Statement today. Here are some things to look out for:
1. Northern Powerhouse - The Theresa May has had an uncomfortable relationship with a concept closely associated with Mr Hammond’s predecessor.
Mrs May has appeared trapped between wanting to broaden the idea to cover more parts of the country while also not wanting to look as though she’s abandoned the North. A staple of George Osborne’s Budgets and Autumn Statements, will it feature today?
2. Spend, spend, spend? - George Osborne’s plan to have the Government’s current account in the black has already been scrapped. The question is what will Mr Hammond do with the new freedom this gives him?
He is expected to set out plans to allow for more borrowing to invest in infrastructure, arguing the country needs to prepare the UK economy for Brexit. But he will also press home the case for continuing to tackle the deficit in day to day spending and bringing the country’s debt under control.
3. There may be trouble ahead - Alongside the Autumn Statement, the Office for Budget Responsibility will release its first assessments since the vote to leave the EU in June. The OBR is expected to warn the gloomier outlook for the economy will have a knock-on impact on tax receipts creating a hole in the Governemnt’s spending plans that needs to be filled. While bad news for the Government, Mr Hammond will use the figures to strengthen his case for austerity to continue.
4. Change of style - The Treasury has suggested Mr Hammond will adopt a different approach to his predecessor on the Autumn Statement, focusing on headline figures rather than individual projects. While this might be seen as a more orthodox approach to the role of Chancellor it is also a less consumer-friendly one and it remains to be seen whether Hammond sticks to it.
5. Brexit plans - There will be no running commentary on Brexit, Theresa May has made clear, but an Autumn Statement billed as setting the country up for its future outside the EU should offer some further guide as to the direction the Government is heading.
6 Politics - George Osborne dreamed up measures designed purely to force his political opponents into a corner. There was no need for a Charter of Budget Responsibility, it was a device designed to make Labour commit to cutting the deficit before the last election, or refuse to do so allowing the Conservatives to brand them irresponsible. Will Mr Hammond seek similar opportunities?