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PR Manager Lauren Keith examines the tone of Philip Hammond's first and last Autumn Statement
'Education, education, education' was the buzzword of Tony Blair's government, 'Big Society' was Cameron's and it seems that 'Ambitious for Britain' is May's.
The formation of a productivity and innovation fund, money for Local Enterprise Partnerships, commitment to slashing corporation tax, infrastructure investment and a review into patient capital were some of the key Autumn Statement announcements. It highlights that driving productivity standards and making the UK a magnet for new business and innovation is top of the priority list for Theresa May and new Chancellor Philip Hammond. Indeed, the Chancellor seemed keen to show he was able to boost his own productivity by reforming the Autumn Statement itself by scrapping it. Looking at what the Statement said about the state of the country's finances though, perhaps it is little wonder. It was revealed that government finances will be £122bn worse off than previously expected by 2020 and growth predictions have been cut following the uncertainty around a Brexit deal.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the aim is to try and dazzle business with some bright orange carrots while details of what a Brexit will look like continue to be unknowns. The reality is that the uncertainty around issues like access to the Single Market, passporting rights and immigration are questions that businesses need to know the answer to when it comes to long term planning. It seems clear that Theresa May and her Chancellor are on a PR exercise to show Britain is a top rate destination to do business with, appealing in particular to to smaller, more innovative firms with a focus on technology and science. The announcement of £400m funding in venture capital funds for growing firms is one example of this.
Of course there can't be a political statement without a new acronym and this year the word is 'JAMs' (referring to people who are 'Just About Managing'). Focus on funding for affordable housing, the banning of letting fees, the exemption of more people from paying income tax and an increase in the living wage were all measures aimed at this group. However, a gaping and surprising omission was any mention of social care funding reform or extra funding for the struggling sector. This is despite warnings of acute pressures on the system and a looming care crisis from the Care Quality Commission and former government ministers.
Under the previous Chancellor we became used to hearing about fixing the roof while the sun was shining and the need to keep within our financial means as a country. In that sense Hammond's attitude marks a departure from his predecessor. He demonstrated that he is willing to depart from fiscal rules to invest in UK PLC in light of the current uncertainties post EU referendum.