'Light at the end of the tunnel' but no end to austerity

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond leaves 11 Downing Street to deliver his half-yearly update on the public finances in London

The Chancellor used his first Spring Statement today (13 March) to announce the call for evidence, which will examine the potential for charge on items such as plastic plates, takeaway boxes and polystyrene packaging, building on the success of the existing plastic carrier bag charge.

Promised to be a short update on forecasts, Philip Hammond's Spring Statement turned out to be 26 short minutes of politics: uplifting vision for the backbenchers and the television news, coupled with witty digs at the Opposition.

Hetal Mehta, senior European economist at Legal & General Investment Management, said: "After significant downgrades to growth and upward revisions to borrowing requirements just in November, the OBR has now revised up growth (for the near term) and taken down the borrowing forecasts over the next five years".

Inflation hit 3.1% in November 2017, but the OBR predicted it had reached its peak.

Mr Hammond said he thought the economy may be on the "beginning of a turn in the trajectory of productivity performance".

"GDP growth is expected to remain subdued, slowing gradually to 1.3% in 2018 and to 1.1% in 2019".

Hammond also looked comfortably on course to meet another target to cut the budget deficit, when adjusted for the swings of the economic cycle, to 2 percent of GDP by the 2020/21 financial year.

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Mr Hammond said he was inviting cities across England to bid for a share of £840 million to deliver on "local transport priorities". Don't expect the government to start splashing the cash though - the debt still needs to be further paid down according to the Chancellor.

It comes as the number of ATMs in the United Kingdom is under threat from proposed increases to interchange fees.

Phillip Hammond has launched a public consultation on a tax system for single-use plastics, vowing to tackle the "threat to our oceans" in his inaugural Spring Statement.

The Chancellor said: "Single-use plastics waste is a scourge to our environment".

A further £20m has been committed from the existing Budget to allow businesses and universities to research ways to reduce the environmental impact of plastics. The move was initially announced in last autumn's Budget. The body left its forecasts unchanged for 2019 at 1.3%.

In addition, the Housing Growth Partnership fund will double to £220m, providing increased support for small housebuilders.

The Chancellor also informed MPs that around 60,000 first time buyers have benefited from the stamp duty relief he announced in the Autumn Budget.

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