Chancellor Philip Hammond surprised those anticipating a boring Budget by littering his speech with jokes and gags. However, there were definitely none of the pyrotechnic policies that were prominent in the last Chancellor’s Budgets (e.g. the sugar levy), as the substance of ‘Spreadsheet Phil’s’ announcements lived up to his nickname. And, needless to say, the state of the public finances remain no laughing matter. Continue reading
Chancellor Hammond’s first Autumn Statement will also be his last. From now there will be a solitary annual Budget event per year. Its swansong was a low key affair. The financial crisis still casts a long shadow with the deficit reduction road lengthened again. But it didn’t stop a regrouping for a new attack on economic public enemy number one – poor productivity.
Northern Ireland has the lowest taxes in the UK and the highest public expenditure per head of any region. Together, these form Northern Ireland’s fiscal USP (unique selling point). This approach to public finances, however, has arguably not served the economy well (and is unsustainable – read my previous article on the subject). Furthermore, given the ongoing austerity agenda, Stormont will have to redouble its efforts in making public expenditure efficiencies and increasing revenue. Continue reading