David Prosser: A fruitless search for economic growth

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The Independent Online

Outlook While George Osborne was busy telling the Treasury Select Committee yesterday about his "Budget for Growth", the evidence stacking up elsewhere pointed to a distinct lack of this precious economic commodity. Certainly there was no sign of any growth at Thomas Cook, which warned the UK was likely to be its least attractive market this year. Nor was there much to be found in the groceries sector, where the latest Kantar market share figures suggested the only supermarkets making any progress just now are the discounters. In fact, the only thing growing yesterday was the volume of the campaign for an interest rate rise, with Martin Weale, one of the Monetary Policy Committeemembers who has been pushing for an early increase in the cost of borrowing, making the case volubly once more.

The Chancellor told MPs that had he offered more giveaways in last week's Budget, the lift to the consumer sector would have been undone by a monetary policy response from Mr Weale and his colleagues. Turning that testimony around, one might say that in the absence of any help for hard-pressed consumers as more tax rises and spending cuts take effect next month, it is difficult to see how Mr Weale is going to persuade more MPC members to vote for an interest rate rise in May, which is when the markets had been expecting the first tightening, or any time soon thereafter.

The picture of trading emerging from the high street – where another retailer confirmed its administration only yesterday – is relentlessly grim.