Jeremy Hunt says 'horrible decisions' will be made in Autumn Statement as he plays 'SCROOGE' to save Christmas

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George McMillan

By George McMillan

Published: 13/11/2022

- 09:04

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:31

He is thought to be considering a range of options to address a so-called black hole in the public finances, including an extended freeze on income tax and national insurance thresholds

Ministers are determined to crack down on an “outrageous” waste of public money while seeking billions in tax hikes and savings as the Chancellor warned he will be playing Scrooge at the upcoming autumn budget.

Jeremy Hunt has promised a “rabbit-free” statement with a focus on delivering “certainty” to families and businesses in the wake of the market turmoil sparked by his predecessor’s £45 billion tax-cutting bonanza.

He is thought to be considering a range of options to address a so-called black hole in the public finances, including an extended freeze on income tax and national insurance thresholds.

But while Mr Hunt has warned there will be “horrible decisions” on tax and spending to come, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has said ministers will also be seeking savings through “rooting out waste”.

John Glen said Government could be made “more efficient” by accelerating the sale of under-used buildings, particularly “expensive central London properties”, and “turbo-charging” plans to digitise public services.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves Downing Street, London, following a meeting held over British oil tanker Stena Impero which was captured in Iranian waters whilst en route to Saudi Arabia.
Aaron Chown

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said: “To continue delivering the things people care about in the face of inflationary pressures, without making the problem worse through extra spending across the board, we have to take difficult decisions and make Government more efficient. That means rooting out waste.

“It’s outrageous that public money – your money – is being soaked up by the system when it could be channelled towards areas that really need it.”

The disastrous mini-budget may have cost the country as much as £30 billion, according to the Resolution Foundation, potentially doubling the task at hand for the Chancellor, as he seeks up to £60 billion in savings and extra revenue.

The think tank’s economists estimate that Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng blew £20 billion on unfunded cuts to national insurance and stamp duty, with a further £10 billion lost to higher interest rates and Government borrowing costs, the Observer reported.

Mr Hunt suggested he will not be pulling any rabbits out of the hat when he delivers his statement next week, unlike his predecessor – who dramatically whipped out a cut to the top rate of income tax in his ill-fated “fiscal event”.

“I think it is fair to say this is going to be the first rabbit-free budget for very many years,” he said.

“I’m sorry to disappoint but no, this is not going to be a time for rabbits I’m afraid.”

He warned people can expect some “very horrible decisions” as part of a bid to “get us back into the place where we are the fantastic country that we all want to be”.

“I’m Scrooge who’s going to do things that make sure Christmas is never cancelled,” he declared.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt arriving in Downing Street, central London, to attend a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Theresa May of the Government's emergency committee Cobra, after Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.
Stefan Rousseau

Mr Hunt said he thinks an official recession is “likely” after GDP shrank by 0.2% between July and September.

“The question is not really whether we’re in recession, but what we can do to make it shorter and shallower,” he added.

He insisted the “number one thing” he can do on Thursday is help tackle sky-high inflation.

“If we can, with the Bank of England, control inflation, then we will be able to contain the global rise in interest rates, contain the rises in mortgage rates that people are seeing, contain the cost of loans that businesses borrow, and have a chance of getting back on track,” he said.

“But that stability is what has been missing — mainly thanks to (Vladimir) Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. This is a ‘made in Russia’ recession and we need to restore that stability as the first step to growth.”

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