POLITICS

Philip Hammond Planning A 'Safety-First' Budget With No Giveaways

Tory MPs are worried their ideas for attracting young voters are set to be ignored

12/10/2017 07:01 | Updated 6 days ago
BEN STANSALL via Getty Images

Philip Hammond is planning to deliver a “safety-first” budget with no giveaways for younger voters, HuffPost UK has learned.

The Chancellor is set to ignore calls from colleagues who want to see the public spending taps turned on in his November statement.

Last month, the Chancellor urged his colleagues to send him ideas on how to attract the millions of under 47s who shunned the Tories in the General Election.

Messages on housing and education costs seemed to be getting through to Hammond, with the Tories using their Party Conference to announce extra cash for the Help to Buy scheme, a freeze in tuition fees and more money for social housing.

However, HuffPost UK has been told Hammond is holding private meetings with Tory MPs, and they are being warned is is unlikely there will be headline-grabbing announcements in November as a result of pessimistic economic forecasts by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Treasury sources insisted the Budget process is still ongoing, and no firm decisions have been made.

One MP told HuffPost UK: “The truth of the Budget is that the OBR downgraded our productivity, and it’s going to be a safety-first Budget.

“He’s pretty determined to keep to the fiscal rules – that’s where we are on it.

The MP added: “Maybe now is the time to be cautious – the OBR put a kibosh on anything else.”

Another MP who gave a presentation on ideas for the Budget – which included areas where savings could be made alongside increased spending – told HuffPost UK they would be frustrated if the Chancellor was just going through the motions.

When asked if it would be a “safety first” Budget, the MP said: “I hope not. Why else would he be getting us to make presentations?”

Since Hammond’s call for ideas at a meeting of backbench Tory MPs in September, the OBR has revised down its prediction of the UK’s productivity.

In March, the OBR predicted productivity in the UK would grow by 1.7% - giving the Chancellor an extra £26billion for the public finances.

After the review, the OBR discovered it had over-estimated the UK’s productivity for the past seven years.

It has been calculated as much as two-thirds of the £26billion fund – which had been put aside as a Brexit war-chest - might not materalise.

The Tories’ conference announcements on housing and tuition fees were met with a muted response by many.

The free-market think tank The Adam Smith Institute described the extra £10billion being ploughed into the Help to Buy as “like throwing petrol on to a bonfire,” while the Institute for Public Policy Research said the scheme not only pushed up property prices but only benefited those who can afford to buy homes anyway.

The capping of tuition fees at £9,250 was branded “desperate” by Labour – who have vowed to abolish the charge entiterly.

Financial journalist Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, welcomed the raising of the level graduates would begin repayments from £21,000 to £25,000.

Writing on his Facebook page, Lewis said: “This will save many lower and middle earning graduates £1,000s.”

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