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Monday, 21 November 2016

Member Blog: JAM today or JAM tomorrow? Anticipating the Autumn Statement

By Simon Collingwood - Director, Quatro PR

As ever, the Autumn Statement will be keenly watched.  But perhaps more so this year than previously given continued uncertainty about the implications of Brexit.  Expectations are high and it is unlikely that it will deliver the sizzle some hope for.

Philip Hammond has said he will revert to a low key Autumn Statement, with greater emphasis placed on the spring budget. But the nation’s finances alone don’t tell the whole story. There is a lot of expectation on the Chancellor to deliver a boost for the JAM (just about managing) demographic.  What this means for infrastructure and business remains to be seen, but it will be a balancing act between measures to help raise living standards (JAM today) and taking a long-term view to secure economic improvement (JAM tomorrow).

Building on the messaging at the Conservative Party Conference, the Autumn Statement is a set piece opportunity for Theresa May’s Government to show that they mean business and what that actually means.  Her comments at the CBI this morning will give some succour to business agitating for investment in shovel ready and long term strategic needs as will Mr Hammond on Peston’s sofa over the weekend.

We’re anticipating a few key themes:

- Seeking short-term help for consumers and home-owners
- Showcasing the UK as open for business
- A focus on industrial strategy and investing in the productivity of the UK economy
- Corporate responsibility and the next steps in Theresa May’s commitment to deal with boardroom issues like the gender pay gap, board pay levels and employee involvement

We do not expect to see any overt discussion of their approach to the Brexit negotiations, though it will be important to listen for signals and emphasis.  It does of course set the context in which the Autumn Statement is taking place. The aftershock of the EU referendum is still raw. MPs from all sides of the House are keen to keep up pressure on the Government over Brexit, international trade and, now, the UK’s prospects in a President Trump world.

The Chancellor has already indicated the plan to drop his predecessor’s objective for a balanced budget by 2020, though that is less to do with its desirability as the practicalities of delivering it. Expect a longer timetable. We’ve also already seen some big announcements on Heathrow and High Speed 2.

That doesn’t mean to say that there won’t be any big ticket spending commitments, but rather ensuring the flexibility to support these in the future. As ever with the Treasury, the devil will be in the details.


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