By Jasmin Gray
On the eve of the autumn budget, Sunday’s politics shows were dominated by discussion of how Philip Hammond will deliver the Prime Minister’s bold claim that “austerity is over”.
The Chancellor told Sky’s Sophy Ridge that it was obvious to voters there had been “enormous pressure” on public services in recent years while the Conservative Party “dealt with the aftermath of Labour’s recession”, but branded the current moment a “turning point”.
Describing his budget to BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, so-called ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ said: “I’ve chosen a balanced approach, which places equal weight on getting the debt down, keeping taxes low, supporting public services and investing in the skills and infrastructure and technology that will drive Britain’s future prosperity.”
He said that money would be made available to local authorities for urgent road repairs, adding that he would be making an “important announcement’ on the hypothecation of vehicle excise duty.
But, overall, the Cabinet minister’s appearances did little to contradict claims he would be forced to produce an “on-the-fence” budget thanks to the Tories’ lack of majority in Parliament and the looming Brexit deal.
Not only did Hammond tell Ridge that the government had already made it’s biggest budget announcement back in June when it pledged to increase NHS funding by £20 billion a year by 2023, but he refused to be pinned down on whether the government would make a financial commitment to tackle the issues plaguing universal credit.
Arguing that he had already pumped more than £2 billion into the welfare scheme over the past two budgets, he said: “We continue to look at how this process is working and if we find cliff edges and difficulties – frictions – in the move from the old system to universal credit, then of course we will try and smooth these out and be pragmatic about this.”
But it was Brexit that presented itself as the biggest threat to Hammond’s anti-austerity budget.
The Runnymede and Weybridge MP revealed that
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