New chancellor Rishi Sunak stands strong on March budget date
After Boris Johnson’s first reshuffle since December’s general election on the 14th February, chancellor Sajid Javid controversially resigned, making way for Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak to be promoted to the role, with a budget deadline looming.
Despite initial confusion, on Tuesday, Sunak and the Treasury officially committed to honouring Javid’s date of March 11th for the drawing up of the Spring budget.
This will be the first budget after the Conservative’s emphatic victory last December, and the pressure is on to honour the dual Conservative promises of increasing spending and cutting taxes.
Especially given the hoovering up of many of the once steadfast Labour voting ‘Red Wall’ seats in the North and the Midlands, those first-time voters will be expecting their proverbial electoral “will” to be satisfied.
Sunak will take over a budget with well-developed plans.
Expected proposals include an increase in infrastructure spending and a large majority of day-to-day departmental budgets to stay the same. If this rings true in the upcoming budget, it will mean five more years of frozen budgets on things like welfare, policing, and local authority funding.
This may invite criticism over Johnson’s claim during in the election that austerity was over, and that a Johnson government would be willing to spend where previous Conservative governments hadn’t.
In terms of re-evaluating Javid’s plans, Sunak is expected to relax some budget constraints across Whitehall. However, he is under political pressure to make good on Johnson’s electoral promises of spending, with fiscal possibilities such as a mansion tax on Britain’s wealthiest being suggested by number ten.
However, Sunak has already shown signs of his style as chancellor, with him claiming that if the Treasury cut pension tax relief for the top earners in order to make way for additional spending for instance, this would make the Conservatives look “socialist”.
There have also been discussions that the government could change its own fiscal rules to allow for the required spending. With the cancellation of last year’s budget and the political pressure mounting, the pressure is on for the performance of the inexperienced and newly- appointed man in number eleven.