Westminster braces itself for Hunt’s long-awaited autumn statement

Katie Neame
© photocosmos1/Shutterstock.com
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The day is finally upon us. Jeremy Hunt will deliver the government’s long-awaited autumn statement later this morning. According to the latest guesstimates, the Chancellor is likely to unveil around £30bn in spending cuts and £24bn in tax rises. Ever since he was first appointed Chancellor, Hunt has warned about “difficult decisions” ahead on tax and spending. Measures rumoured to be featured in today’s statement include a two-year extension of the freeze on income tax thresholds – a stealth tax that will see people pulled into higher tax brackets – and reducing planned growth in day-to-day public spending after 2025 from 3.7% to 1%. It has also been reported that the Chancellor may delay much-needed reforms to the social care sector and lift the requirement for local authorities to hold referendums if they want to increase council tax bills by more than 2.99%.

Speaking ahead of Hunt’s statement, Rachel Reeves declared that the Chancellor’s plan must deliver “fairer choices for working people” and a “proper plan for growth”. The Shadow Chancellor said: “Britain has so much potential, but we are falling behind on the global stage, while mortgages, food and energy costs all go up and up. The country is being held back by 12 years of Tory economic failure and wasted opportunities, and working people are paying the price.”

Pat McFadden made a similar argument on the broadcast round this morning. The Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury told viewers that the government wants to pretend that Liz Truss’ disastrous ‘mini-Budget’ was a “bad dream” but stressed that that argument “doesn’t really wash” given the Tories longer-term economic record. “Unless we get out of that pattern of low growth, we’re stuck in this Conservative doom loop of emergency statements with tax rises and spending cuts,” he warned.

The pressure will be on Reeves to respond robustly to the measures set out in Hunt’s statement, and there have been calls from within Labour and beyond for the leadership to take a more radical stance on the economy. Writing for LabourList this morning, Richard Burgon makes the case for wealth taxes as an alternative to so-called “austerity 2.0”. The Labour backbencher argues that the tax system is “deliberately designed to tax income from wealth at lower rates than income from work”, adding: “Tackling such tax injustices should be at the heart of the labour movement’s response to Tory austerity 2.0.”

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