Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announces date for 2024 spring Budget

Tories expected to seek tax cuts in appeal to voters as they founder 20 points behind Labour in polls

Andy Gregory
Wednesday 27 December 2023 17:52 GMT
Autumn budget 2023: Key announcements from Jeremy Hunt's statement

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced the date for the 2024 spring Budget, as the Conservatives scramble to appease voters with tax cuts ahead of the upcoming general election.

Mr Hunt confirmed on Wednesday morning that the government’s next major financial statement will be delivered on 6 March – likely its last before the country heads to the polls next year.

It comes amid a flurry of reports about measures Mr Hunt could introduce in the Budget in a bid to claw back voters currently polled to favour Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party by a margin of 20 per cent.

Jeremy Hunt enjoyed the least fiscal headroom of any of his six predecessors since 2010 following his autumn statement (Maja Smiejkowska/PA)

The prime minister has ordered a “gear change” to reduce the historically high tax burden, possibly axing inheritance tax and reducing income tax, according to The Daily Telegraph.

And housing secretary Michael Gove suggested to The Times that the Conservatives will promise to cut the upfront cost of a home for first-time buyers in a pre-election giveaway.

Ministers are reported to be considering government support for longer fixed-term mortgages to reduce the size of deposits for first-time buyers, while a resurrected help-to-buy scheme was also said to be on the table for either the spring Budget or the Tory election manifesto.

Asked whether the Conservatives would be able to go into the election expected next year promising more help for first-time buyers, Mr Gove told the paper: “Oh, yes, we must. Definitely.”

But Labour was also drawing up battle lines across Britain’s unforgiving housing market, with shadow minister Matthew Pennycook also promising on Wednesday that Labour would “slash the discounts” on the Tories’ Right to Buy scheme for long-term inhabitants of social housing.

The Conservatives will ‘definitely’ seek to help first-time buyers, Michael Gove said (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Mr Pennycook told the Financial Times that Labour would also liberalise planning, reinstate building targets for local authorities, and release “lower-quality greenbelt land” for housing construction while giving priority to local residents for off-plan new-builds.

Sir Keir’s party would also raise the surcharge on stamp duty for non-residents from 2 to 3 per cent, and hand the estimated £25m raised to local authorities to hire 300 new planners in a bid to reverse the decline caused by public spending cuts.

Despite Mr Hunt producing the largest single package of tax giveaways since the 1980s in his autumn statement, the tax burden under the Conservatives is still set to rise to its highest level since the Second World War.

The chancellor was left with just £13bn to spare after his autumn statement, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility – less than half of the room for manoeuvre enjoyed by any of his six predecessors since 2010.

While a further hit to growth could plunge his fiscal headroom lower still, recent estimates forecast lower-than-expected interest rates on government debt could turn the chancellor’s fortunes around somewhat.

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