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Chancellor promises investment will be at heart of Budget

Phillip Hammond hints end to unpopular austerity programme could be in sight.

Hammond: UK borrowing rose to £8bn in October (file pic).
Hammond: UK borrowing rose to £8bn in October (file pic). PA

Chancellor Philip Hammond has said he will use the Budget to "invest to secure a bright future for Britain", in a strong signal that he is ready to start bringing down the curtain on Tory austerity.

In his keynote statement on Wednesday, Hammond is expected to respond to intense pressure for Government spending to boost industrial productivity, as he promises to build "a Britain fit for the future".

The move comes more than a year after a UN report found the Tory austerity programme breached international human rights, disproportionately affecting women, young people, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

More than £350m has been spent by the Scottish Government since 2013 to mitigate against the worst damage caused by austerity, which has seen swingeing cuts to public services and welfare services.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1400767-tories-must-scrap-austerity-programme-say-ministers/ | default

As he finalised preparations for his second Budget statement, Hammond sought to damp down expectation of a full-blown turn away from the austerity agenda which has dominated economic policy for seven years, insisting his package would be "balanced".

But addressing MPs in the House of Commons, he will leave no doubt that increased investment is at the heart of his programme.

"In this Budget, we express our resolve to look forwards, to embrace change, to meet our challenges head on, and to seize the opportunities for Britain," he is expected to say.

Hammond's room for manoeuvre has been limited by figures showing that state borrowing jumped to £8bn in October, adding to pressure from the Office for Budget Responsibility's expected downgrade of productivity projections.

The director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson, said Hammond was caught "between a rock and a hard place" and may be forced to abandon his target of balancing the nation's books by the middle of the next decade.

Mr Johnson told the Economia website the best route for the Chancellor would probably be to "do very little and leave himself some room for manoeuvre later on", but he was coming under intense political pressure not to do so.

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