Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Style of Philip Hammond

I approve big-time - approve of Philip Hammond that is. We have a Chancellor who looks and acts like a Chancellor, an accountant. From my viewpoint on the world, from high up a rural Wales mountain, that is the highest of compliments. No politic manouvering. No histrionics. Just a sound cautious calculation  of risk and balanced response. In fact it was pretty much what we expected. I'm very grateful not to be a financial journalist. They will be running around in circles like frustrated greyhounds, not having any rabbits to chase. This is what budgets and autumn statements should be like.

While we know that the post EU referendum predictions of gloom simply did not happen (I thought they wouldn't). Quite the opposite in fact. But most of us accept we are in a period of uncertainty. Let's make the heroic assumption that the Office of Budget Responsibility have got it somewhere near right. There is likely to be a higher deficit and growth uncertainty over next couple of years than we had been told to expect pre June 23rd if we had voted Remain. So the Chancellor is right to borrow a bit more to invest over this period - what he calls headroom. Chancellor has changed his predeccessor's deficit elimination plan in this Parliament, replacing it with a balanced budget "as soon as possible". I think we knew this already. Seems to me the spending relaxation is limited and well directed.

Of course no chance to look through detail yet. And I like to read the weekend assessment before settling on a firm opinion. But extra money for housing must be a big plus. We need more places for people to live. Lots more. And I'm really pleased to see the agent fees on renting property being reined in - even if it is only in England. Hope Wales follows suit.

Chancellor is right to see productivity as the UK's biggest challenge. Since 2010, we have gone big on reducing unemployment (with astonishing success) but one price we've paid is lower productivity. We must hope investment is aimed at tackling low productivity. Bigger challenge than unemployment now.

Steady as she goes in Wales as well. Welsh word for rabbit is cyningod (please correct spelling!). Fair bit of extra money flowing down the Barnett interconnector from infrastructure spending in England. Good to see reference to Swansea and North Wales. Some are moaning no reference to tidal lagoons. Of course there aren't. We still don't know if they are financially viable. Desperately hope they are, but everything must have a price.

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