The Autumn Statement through the looking glass
'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day.'
'It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"' Alice objected.
'No, it can't,' said the Queen. 'It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know.'
'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!'
Lewis Carroll - Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There
Lots of things are dreadfully confusing. The Chancellor used the Autumn Statement to abolish the Autumn Statement because he felt like it was becoming a second Budget. Mr Hammond then moved the first Budget from the Spring to the Autumn (where the “second Budget” had previously been). Aghast at the gaping hole in fiscal announcement timetable from only one fiscal update he instituted a Spring Statement where the first Budget had previously been. It remains to be seen what effect this seasonal shuffling will have other than confusing the UK’s fiscal followers.
In contradiction to Lewis Carroll’s book but according to Whitehall we do now have Jam today – except that JAM now stands for those that are “Just About Managing”. One presumes that this moniker encapsulates all those that the post financial crisis “recovery” left behind – the average worker who hasn’t accumulated a lot of real or financial assets nor seen a real increase in their standard of living. Unsurprisingly, three of the major policies of the Autumn Statement/Budget were aimed at helping these people – a rise in fuel duty cancelled, welfare savings postponed and infrastructure/innovation spending expanded.
Critics will point to uncertainty over whether the country can afford lower taxes and higher spending when there are such uncertainties like Brexit. Mr Hammond would likely argue that job creation and putting more money in consumers’ pockets is just the remedy for the febrile growth that he expects. Either way the Statement was a departure from George Osborne’s updates; he will no doubt be hoping that it does produce jam tomorrow, otherwise even that weak growth may be toast.
By George Palmer
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