It is now exactly seven weeks until Wednesday, 19 March, when the Chancellor will deliver the 2014 Budget.
Mr Osborne may actually be looking forward to delivering his speech, because he can point to some positive economic indicators. On 22 January, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that unemployment had dropped to 7.1% — very close to the 7% level at which the Bank of England has said it will “consider” dropping interest rates — and that GDP was up by 0.7% over the last quarter of 2013, representing the fastest annual growth since 2007.
Now that there’s some good news to justify the Government’s austerity program, its real challenges will be to sustain the recovery and to answer critics who claim that the falling unemployment numbers mask the grim realities of record underemployment and wages that have failed to keep pace with inflation.
No doubt the Chancellor will have prepared rebuttal for the traditional post-speech showdown with the Shadow Chancellor, but the Budget is more than just the speech delivered in the House. More often than not, some of the more salient details are contained in the accompanying ‘Red Book,’ but you’re unlikely to see many people browsing it on the bus post-Budget Day. (Hardly surprising, given that the 2013 Red Book ran to 112 pages in A4 format.)
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