Sunday, 18 November, 2018

'Austerity-easing' Budget facing more scrutiny months away from Brexit

Philip Hammond discusses the Budget at No 11 Downing Street Philip Hammond discusses the Budget at No 11 Downing Street Credit Rii Schroer
Samantha Long | 31 October, 2018, 20:12

British Finance Minister Philip Hammond on Monday revealed his annual budget, which includes a proposed "digital services tax" of 2 percent on revenue generated from United Kingdom users.

The IFS director described other tax changes introduced by the Chancellor - including a digital service tax on online giants and a cut in business rates for small retailers - as "a short-term sticking plaster solution to some big underlying problems with the tax system".

Speculation was rife that the Budget had the feel of paving the way for an election manifesto, but Mrs May, speaking today in Norway, said that was not the government's intention.

The Daily Mail runs with the headline "Phil-Good Factor!", and says the Budget marked a dramatic shift in strategy.

And the Financial Times reports that Mr Hammond warned a disorderly Brexit could cast a cloud over cash-starved public services.

"Yesterday's Budget was a bit of a gamble".

The public finances are in better shape - borrowing is £11.9bn lower this year than expected.

The tax doesn't specifically target the USA tech giants, instead casting its net wide across social media platforms, online marketplaces and search engines that generate over £500m per year globally.

Developer claims squatter's rights on $1.8m Sydney home
He called a builder to fix the doors, change the locks and make the building watertight, spending about A$35,000 on repair works. Mr Downie's family claimed they had to leave the house sometime after the World War II because of a white ant infestation.

The Chancellor used Monday's statement to announce a £100 billion loosening of purse strings, with help with business rates for the High Street, support for Universal Credit and the promise of increased public spending over the coming years.

The flagship proposal in Hammond's Budget was the increase in spending on the government-funded National Health Service (NHS), set to increase by 20 billion pounds by 2023/24, the end of the Budget forecast period. "They might - there's perhaps a one in three chance of that". The higher rate tax threshold stood at £43,875 in 2010 and had risen to £46,350 by April 2018.

In such circumstances, the Chancellor was "likely" to allow borrowing - and the national debt - to rise, meaning that his target to eliminate the deficit by the mid-2020s was now "for the birds".

As well as the tax cuts and increased departmental spending, the Chancellor set out one-off bonuses for defence, schools and local authorities after being given positive forecasts for the public finances by the OBR.

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell hit back saying: 'The Tories usually do this.

The Chancellor budget speech signalled a subtle - but significant - shift in the Conservative's choice of language about austerity.

But he said voters would be "crushingly disappointed" that the Budget did not deliver the end of austerity.

Hammond told parliament: "Our economy continues to confound those who talk it down - and we continue to focus resolutely on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, as we build a new relationship with our European neighbours; a new future outside the EU".

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