Spring statement: Tories find cheer in Hammond's optimism. For now

Spring statement: Tories find cheer in Hammond's optimism. For now

Hammond said the more favourable outlook for borrowing means the debt forecast is almost 1% lower than in November.

The new 2018 forecast remains a slowdown, however, compared with expansion of 1.7 percent last year, and followed a gloomy OECD warning that Brexit would crimp growth over the coming years.

BUSINESS leaders have had a mixed reaction to the chancellor's spring statement.

Borrowing is now forecast to be £45.2 billion in the current financial year that runs to April 2018 - £4.7 billion lower than forecast in November.

In his speech today, Philip Hammond was positive about the United Kingdom economy, reporting that it has grown every year since 2010, with an additional three million jobs, lower unemployment and an increase in wages of nearly 7% above inflation since April 2015 for the lowest paid.

"Light at the end of the tunnel", he added. With over 50% of Cambridge's growth in the next three years forecast to come from Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and professional services, investment in these areas will be vital to maintaining this trajectory.

Hammond said growth would stand at 1.3 percent in both 2019 and 2020, unchanged from previous forecasts.

Graham Poles, tax partner at Armstrong Watson, said: "The statement did deliver some good news".

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"Measures aimed at tackling perceived tax avoidance by the big tech firms could easily impact on much smaller digital firms' competitiveness and investment", he said.

On business rates revaluations: "We've consistently called for more frequent revaluations and welcome the Chancellor's decision to move forward the next revaluation by a year to 2021 as a step in the right direction".

But, he added, there was little detail in the Spring Statement, which lasted for around 30 minutes, and he was looking forward to seeing more about the proposals.

He said: "It's a fine line the Chancellor has to walk between borrowing and spending". However, we need a comprehensive strategy which considers all materials and resources and sets out how the Government intends to shift to a circular economy where all resources are valued and reused when possible.

Some lawmakers in Hammond's Conservative Party have urged him to take advantage of the progress in reducing the deficit to spend more on an over-stretched health system, the military and other services. "This is all very well and good, but it does nothing to help those businesses, particularly the retailers who are struggling with the system today", Webber said.

Richard Miller, head of property at Burnetts, said: "It is reassuring to see that in times of uncertainty, the underlying economy is growing".

"From a Cumbrian perspective, we must focus our efforts on submitting a robust bid for part of the potential £840m fund being made available for investment in local transport with an obvious opportunity being improving links between Carlisle and Britain's Energy Coast".

Mr Hammond also confirmed there will be a review into how to help the least productive businesses catch up with their competitors and how to eradicate late payments to the UK's small businesses.

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