A spring statement with few announcements

Chancellor Philip Hammond has delivered his Spring Statement 2018, and on his promise to move away from two major fiscal announcements every year.

There was no red briefcase, no red book, and no tax changes as the chancellor announced updated economic forecasts in a speech lasting less than half the length of any of his previous statements.

Not that it comes as a surprise seeing that Hammond moved this to a Tuesday, rather than keeping it in its usual slot straight after prime minister’s questions on a Wednesday.

Far from being a second financial statement of the tax year, the chancellor unveiled the latest economic forecasts alongside a raft of consultations.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) revised its forecast for growth up to 1.5% – a rise of 0.1% on the previous forecast announced in Autumn Budget 2017.

However, GDP is expected to fall back to 1.3% in 2019 and 2020 as the OBR left its November 2017 forecast unchanged.

Borrowing fell to £45.2 billion in 2017/18 – £4.7 billion lower than the OBR’s forecast in November 2017, while Hammond confirmed any further borrowing is expected to fund capital investment only.

Debt is also expected to start falling as a share of GDP in 2018/19, according to the OBR.

Aside from updated economic forecasts, the rest of the chancellor’s attention focused on policy consultations – some new, others previously announced.

These consultations may feed into Autumn Budget 2018.

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