Chancellor’s spending and deficit ‘dilemma’

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has voiced concerns that the Chancellor Philip Hammond may have to scrap his planned target of eliminating the UK’s deficit by the mid-2020s if he wants to increase public spending.

The think tank has described the Chancellor, who will deliver his Autumn Budget on 22 November, as being caught between “a rock and a hard place,” and suggested that Mr Hammond may have to admit that it is “no longer sensible” to aim to balance Britain’s books in such a short space of time.

Carl Emmerson, Deputy Director at the IFS, said: “Public sector workers, the NHS, the prison service, schools and working-age benefit recipients, among others, would like more money.

“Given all the current pressures and uncertainties, and the policy action that these might require, it is perhaps time to admit that a firm commitment to running a budget surplus from the mid-2020s onwards is no longer sensible.”

The comments come just weeks after Mr Hammond told reporters that driving down the deficit “in a measured and sensible way” over the next few years “has to be the right way to go.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson on behalf of the Treasury has reportedly said that it will continue to adopt a “balanced approach” going forward.