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Spring Budget: OBR upgrades 2018 growth forecasts

13 March 2018

The UK's economic growth forecasts have been revised up from 1.4% to 1.5% in 2018, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the first ever Spring Statement today.

Yet in reply, Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: "Does the chancellor really believe the NHS can wait another eight months for the lifesaving funds it needs?"

Worryingly for Hammond, the OBR said the economy was already running slightly faster than it could do without generating excessive inflation, even as it lagged behind its historic growth rates.

Mr Hammond said he hoped this weekend's forthcoming summit of the G20 developed nations in Argentina would help to set out some concrete steps for achieving that.

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Furthermore, the government has said that it is working with 44 areas which have submitted bids to the Housing Infrastructure fund, to make sure that only those homes that are needed are being built.

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the Confederation of British Industry, largely echoed Mr Marshall's remarks, saying that it was "great to see an upgrade in the state of our public finances and rightly sensible to set more aside for a rainy day with Brexit uncertainty still weighing on the economy".

He said "substantial progress" has been made in Brexit talks.

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The chancellor had promised MPs a short speech of about 20 minutes to deliver the government's first spring statement, deferring any tax and spending announcements to the budget, which has been moved to the autumn.

Growth forecasts in 2019 and 2020 were kept unchanged at 1.3 per cent, Hammond told parliament, citing figures from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility.

The OBR has already upgraded its fiscal forecasts twice over the past year, in March 2017 and November, as tax receipts have come in stronger than previously expected.

It comes as the Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that Britain's financial settlement with the European Union will cost £37.1 billion. His Treasury deputy Liz Truss said there would be "no red box, no rabbits out of the hat and no tax changes".

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"Today's brief address will likely see the first full analysis of Brexit's impact on United Kingdom public finances, good news in terms of lower public borrowing and economic growth higher (but not necessarily an end to austerity), as well as announcement of a range of consultations on issues such as tax for small businesses, inheritance tax for individuals and a levy on "single use" plastics", said Accendo Markets analysts Mike van Dulken & Henry Croft.

Spring Budget: OBR upgrades 2018 growth forecasts