Although the Government has shown a little more discipline in its pre budget briefings compared to last year’s leak fest, some measures have already been trailed. We know the beer duty escalator will be limited or scrapped, there will be help for childcare and a bit more money for infrastructure projects.
No Chancellor likes to give everything away though and this year there has been a deliberate attempt to keep expectations low. Labour is expecting the Chancellor to use the £6bn a year from pension changes in future years to make a big and as yet untrailed announcement.
But whatever the individual measures it is the overall context for this Budget that really matters – economic growth stalled since 2010, forecasts downgraded, infrastructure plans which have failed to get off the drawing board and a deficit reduction plan described by today’s Financial Times as “wildly off course”.
The Government looks set to stay on the same fiscal path because to do anything else would be to admit the strategy has not worked. That means no change in direction but much hope invested in the imminent arrival of the new Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney.
Mr Carney is a very talented central bank Governor and impressed when he made his initial appearance in parliament in January, but the Governments can’t expect to shuffle off responsibility for ensuring growth to the Bank of England.
That means that after today the big exam question in British politics will remain the same – who has the best ideas for securing economic growth after five years of contraction, squeezed living standards, and declining real incomes? Whoever answers it best will be on course to win in 2015.
Pat McFadden is Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East and a member of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee