PHILIP HAMMOND’S optimism in the Spring Statement is all the more surprising because of his well-documented pessimism over Brexit and the terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Yet, while the Chancellor was buoyed by higher-than-expected growth and lower-than-forecast borrowings, this normally cautious politician should be guarding against complacency rather than taking the attack to Labour.
For, while yesterday’s speech was effectively a six-month update on the state of the economy, many households will find Mr Hammond’s pronouncements to be at odds with rises in the cost of living.
They will be alarmed that the Chancellor ignored their warnings about growing concerns over health and social care funding – a politician more sensitive to the country’s needs would have acknowledged this at the very least.
And they will be disappointed that the Government did not take this opportunity to accelerate plans to enable the Northern Powerhouse to drive forward the future economic growth of the whole country. All of these objectives could have been achieved by Mr Hammond if he had had the desire, and determination, to do so.
Yet, with the Chancellor reiterating its commitment to devolution and empowering metro-mayors to lead the regional growth agenda, it’s even more vital that Yorkshire – and the Government – reaches a consensus sooner rather than later.
For, every deadline and opportunity missed is a day when local, regional and national leaders are not focusing on the enterprise agenda, and the need to create the jobs, investment and opportunities, that will leave this country best placed to withstand Brexit and the myriad challenges that remain. Given this, it remains to be seen how long the spring will remain in Mr Hammond’s step.