United Kingdom nudges up 2018 growth forecast - Chancellor


Mr Hammond, delivering a half-yearly update on the public finances, said Britain's budget forecasters expect the economy to grow by 1.5 per cent in 2018, up a touch from a forecast of 1.4 per cent in November.

Borrowing for the 2017/18 fiscal year was revised down by £4.7bn to £45.2bn, Hammond said, adding "there is light at the end of the tunnel".

Hammond said he would use the budget this autumn to set out his expenditure expectations for 2020 and beyond, with a full spending review next year, after Brexit.

The predictions, made by Office for Budget Responsibility, would put the United Kingdom among the slowest among major economies as global growth picks ups, and are also drastically more pessimistic than those from before the Brexit referendum. The latest forecasts hold that inflation will hover around 2% over the coming five years.

Productivity is stronger than expected, according to the OBR, though it warned that these figures reflected a weaker number of average hours worked.

Mr McDonnell said the Tories had added £700 billion to the national debt over the past eight years.

Mr Hammond said he was inviting cities across England to bid for a share of £840 million to deliver on "local transport priorities".

He said: "Our economy will remain and open and outward-looking, confident to compete with the best in the world".

It comes as the number of ATMs in the United Kingdom is under threat from proposed increases to interchange fees.

He also said the government was considering new taxes on single-use plastic and on the profits of tech giants like Facebook and Google.

Rachel McEleney, associate tax director at Deloitte, said the move to examine taxes on online selling was, broadly, a good one: "We welcome this call for evidence - many people have no experience of completing tax returns".

A further £20m has been committed from the existing Budget to allow businesses and universities to research ways to reduce the environmental impact of plastics.

He first addressed the topic in the Autumn Budget, amid concerns the current system does not tax companies where they make their money.

The debt forecast is almost 1% lower than in November, Mr Hammond said.

In addition, the Housing Growth Partnership fund will double to £220m, providing increased support for small housebuilders.

'The stamp duty concessions have definitely prompted more interest among first-time buyers, who are often taking the place of investors at the lower end of the market. Mr Hammond reported that 60,000 buyers have benefited from the change to date.