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Spring Statement shows Chancellor 'cut off from real world', McDonnell warns
13 March 2018, 06:38 | Joann Bryant
Philip Hammond has said here is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ after years of austerity
The Chancellor attempted to deliver a more upbeat statement amidst the uncertainty that surrounds the United Kingdom economy, pointing to signals for stronger growth and falling inflation.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: "Our public services are at breaking point and many of our local councils are near bankruptcy".
He said public service workers, including doctors and nurses, need Hammond to take action.
Chancellor Philip Hammond today unveiled lower government borrowing forecasts as slightly stronger growth and higher tax receipts boosted the public finances.
Amid a clear political warning against "Labour's economic train wreck" (paired with his "light at the end of the tunnel" metaphor), the chancellor announced that growth for 2017 had been revised up by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to 1.7 per cent - up from 1.5 per cent at the Budget in November.
Mr Hammond is expected to speak for less than half an hour.
With the end of a rather long dark winter for British consumers coming to an end, the chancellor came as close as anyone has in signalling an end of austerity, declaring emphatically there is "light at the end of the tunnel".
The medium-term forecasts were less upbeat, however, with the OBR predicting economic growth of 1.3% next year (unchanged from last November's forecast), 1.3% in 2020 (also unchanged), 1.4% in 2021 (down from 1.5%) and 1.5% in 2022 (down from 1.6%).
The economy is expected to grow more strongly than predicted in 2018 with public finances also improving.
Sarah Hewin, chief economist for Europe at Standard Chartered, said the latest forecasts announced by Hammond looked sub-par:"The surprise for many people is how little has changed.it's a pretty weak trajectory". "That shows how cut off he is", said McDonnell.
The Chancellor said: "Single-use plastics waste is a scourge to our environment".
The OBR expects inflation to fall from its peak of 3% to the Bank of England's 2% over the next 12 months. Growth in 2017 was 1.7%, compared with the 1.5% forecast by the OBR previous year. Wages of the lowest paid are up by nearly 7%, he added. Those looking for any major spending or policy announcements will be left disappointed. His Treasury deputy Liz Truss said there would be "no red box, no rabbits out of the hat and no tax changes".
In order to facilitate a shift away from plastics, Hammond will also announce a support fund of £20 million for businesses and universities investing in research around alternatives to single-use plastics.
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