We now know the Autumn Statement will come in late November. It will bring us new forecasts from the OBR of how the UK economy may pan out for the last couple of months of 2016 and throughout 2017. These forecasts will have a substantial impact on how much money the estimators think the government will have to spend and how much it will collect in taxes. If they take too pessimistic a view of next year’s growth then the Chancellor will be told he faces higher borrowing than he might like.
My first advice to him is if the forecasts are for slow or no growth next year in line with the pessimism of the Bank of England and some private sector forecasters, he should be very suspicious of the numbers. He certainly need not raise more taxes or cut spending to try to get the alleged deficit back under control, as in all probability this will be a bogus problem brought on by inaccurate forecasts.
I was going to advise him instead to spend or provide tax cuts to the tune of £10bn a year of extra spending and less revenue, the very annual sum we will save each year as soon as we are out of the EU. This will provide a welcome boost, and the deficit will contract again as soon as we cancel the contributions. It would be a spur for the Treasury to be one of those who push for an early exit. You do not have to take 2 years from sending a letter to get out. If you reach an agreement earlier or get to breakdown in talks earlier then you can cancel the contributions earlier.
I think I am still of that view. I would like to see more spent on the NHS and on immediate road, housing and energy schemes as we are short of capacity in those areas. I want to see him scrap VAT on domestic fuel, tampons and green products, though Parliament will have to date the end of these taxes to the exit date from the EU. He needs to cut Stamp duty further, as the last Chancellor’s large hikes have done damage to the housing market and stand in the way of more supply coming on from people who might otherwise like to downsize or change their accommodation.
However, I am also worried by the size of the recent monetary stimulus. Money and credit growth were accelerating before the recent fall in the pound, which in itself is another stimulus. This was then followed by a grave misjudgement by the Bank of England in cutting rates and making available up to £170 bn of created money on top of the money expansion underway. If the money figures remain as fast and alarming as the most recent in the run up to the Autummn Statement then a net fiscal stimulus would not be a good idea. The government should consider removing HS2 from the spending side, as this is a poor value project which could be replaced by better transport investments for the North at lower costs.