Week Ahead: Rishi Sunak’s Spending Review revealed as undersea treasure auctioned

Rishi Sunak will set out his economic stall for the next year in a Spending Review while ‘Black Friday’ heralds the start of Christmas shopping. Chris Burn looks into the Week Ahead.

CHANCELLOR’S CHALLENGE

Since becoming Chancellor in February, Richmond MP Rishi Sunak has become associated with unprecedented levels of public spending necessary to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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But with public sector debt now surpassing £2 trillion, the largesse is expected to start to come to a halt this week as Mr Sunak sets out his one-year Spending Review on Wednesday.

The review will set out Government departmental resources and capital budgets for 2021/22, and the devolved administrations’ block grants for the same period. There have already been reports the review will include a public sector pay freeze that will exempt only frontline doctors and nurses.

The Treasury has not commented on the reports but Mr Sunak has stressed the UK’s public finances would need to be put on a “sustainable path” over time.

He said: “We’ve provided over £200 billion of support to protect the economy, lives and livelihoods from the significant and far-reaching impacts of coronavirus.

“This is the responsible thing to do, but it’s also clear that over time it’s right we ensure the public finances are put on a sustainable path.”

Wednesday will also see the publication of official statistics for the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, while the Office for Budget Responsibility will be publishing its latest economic forecasts - taking into account the continued uncertainty around both the pandemic and Brexit negotiations.

FRIDAY FEELING

‘Black Friday’ - falling this week - is originally an American phenomenon as the day following Thanksgiving which since 1952 has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.  

In recent years, it has become an ever-more prominent part of British culture too, with retailers opening early and offering a variety of promotional sales. It has got to the point where sales on Black Friday consistently outperform Boxing Day as shoppers look to grab bargains before Christmas.

It remains to be seen how the event will play out this year, especially with England still in lockdown.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics reported that retail sales for October had been 5.8 per cent higher than in the same month last year as consumers started their Christmas shopping early ahead of the second national lockdown.

One thing that is certain is that online retailers will be doing well this week. Amazon has already upgraded Black Friday to ‘Black Friday Week’ and even that description falls short of the 11-day promotional period it started last Friday and is running through until Monday, November 30.

UNDERSEA TREASURE

An ancient undersea treasure is expected to fetch up to £50,000 when it goes under the hammer this week.

Once believed to have been extinct for almost 70 million years, scientists were stunned when a coelacanth fish was discovered at an open-air market in South Africa in 1938.

Live specimens of the creature were later found, leading the species to be classified as a Lazarus taxon due to its miraculous rediscovery.

Now a rare 200-million-year-old fossil of a coelacanth is to be auctioned off at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, West Sussex on Tuesday.

SOAP STARS

The nation’s soaps will celebrate the best work of a challenging year tonight with a virtual awards ceremony.

The Inside Soap Awards has EastEnders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks up against each other in the best soap category.

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