Philip Hammond is planning a whistle-stop tour of the UK before the first autumn Budget in a bid to ensure government policy does not focus solely on Brexit.
The Treasury’s traditional focus on financial services has led to its heavy involvement in the Brexit process, but the Chancellor is understood to be keen to make sure other sectors of the economy are not forgotten, and that areas outside London are listened to. Visits across the country in September and October will focus on meetings where local businesses will get a chance to tell Mr Hammond what they need to become more productive.
Officials from the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) want to find ways to strengthen the economy and avoid neglecting domestic policy at a time of intense focus on international affairs.
However, Treasury sources noted that any new policies will be “constrained by the fiscal position” – an indication that Mr Hammond still needs to focus on cutting the budget deficit, so proposals to boost growth must also be relatively cheap.
Participants will be warned not to expect anything “sexy or exciting” because of those financial limits, but instead to focus on long-term changes to areas of policy such as taxation, border controls, infrastructure and skills which can boost the economy over many years.
At the same time, 10 Downing Street will run the Business Advisory Group, which is expected to see representatives of business groups come to Whitehall to brief Theresa May and her officials on their members’ views on business policy and the state of the economy. Mr Hammond’s plans echo those of Bank of England policymakers who travel the country making speeches and hosting events to make sure they have an informed view of economic conditions on the ground.
Source: The Telegraph