Hammond’s Budget delivers jokes but no shocks

Boxed in: Hammond faces tougher economic circumstances than previous chancellors. © Getty

Should we cheer Philip Hammond’s Budget? Yesterday, the chancellor announced slightly more generous spending than expected. But overall, he lived up to his reputation for caution.

It had been touted as the trickiest Budget in a generation. Chancellor Philip Hammond faced a dizzying set of problems: weak economic growth, the uncertainty caused by Brexit, and the government’s lack of a majority.

In the event, Hammond gave a quite polished speech. It confirmed his reputation for caution: his plans for the nation’s finances involve no major shakeup.

Some of the biggest announcements were reforms to housing policy. However, Hammond admitted that they would not solve the housing crisis.

The chancellor pledged emergency funding for the NHS, but not as much as the service had asked for. He set aside £3 billion to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. He promised to help tech startups, boost maths teaching and eradicate rough sleeping.

There were no big giveaways. This is because, as Hammond mentioned, the forecast for the UK’s economic growth is dire. This means that the government will have less to spend in coming years.

Hammond’s speech received a mixed reaction from his party. Those who had hoped for more radical reforms to coincide with Brexit were disappointed, but the big sum allocated for a no-deal scenario pleased Leavers.

Labour was scathing. Jeremy Corbyn slammed the Budget as a bunch of “accounting tricks and empty promises”. He argued that it would do little to ease austerity and improve living standards.

Phil the pinch

Well done Hammond, say some. He has taken no stupid risks. His emphasis on housing, Brexit and technology shows that he is looking to the future. This Budget restores credibility to the government. We should be optimistic.

Rubbish, reply others. The UK is headed for some tough times. What’s more, Brexit could soon make this Budget irrelevant. Hammond lacks the vision to deal with the challenges ahead. There is no reason to cheer.

You Decide

  1. Which of the policies mentioned in this article are you most excited about?

Activities

  1. As a class, come up with one policy that you would like the chancellor to announce in his next Budget. Write him a letter to let him know.

Some People Say...

“The function of government is to obey orders, not originate them.”

Mark Twain

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Budget is an annual event. It used to take place in spring, but this year Hammond moved it to autumn. So 2017 has had two Budgets.
What do we not know?
What the fallout from this Budget will be. It can take days for criticism to build, as analysts pore over the details of the proposals. Chancellors sometimes have to make U-turns on unpopular policies, as Hammond did last time.

Word Watch

Reforms to housing policy
Other announcements include a higher tax on empty properties and money to help build 300,000 homes per year (until the mid-2020s).
No-deal Brexit
The scenario in which the UK and the EU fail to reach an agreement.
Maths teaching
Other than this and a pledge to train more computer teachers, Hammond did not offer much to schools.
Rough sleeping
Hammond promised to set up a task force with the aim of eliminating rough sleeping by 2027. According to the charity Crisis, homelessness has risen by nearly a third since 2011.

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