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First thoughts on George Osborne's Autumn Statement

The numbers quoted in George Osborne's statement included some heroic assumptions. Photo: PA Wire

There will be thousands of column inches, hours of broadcast in the coming days on what George Osborne said, but here are a few quick thoughts.

The coalition's reason for being was to get debt falling as a share of the national total income by 2015. They won't do that. They also wanted to balance the books, getting rid of the deficit by 2015. They won't do that either. The hope for light at the end of the tunnel is much further back into the future. Indeed the government can only say borrowing is falling this year if they include the proceeds of the 4G phone auction that has not even yet taken place.

Millions of people could feel like they have less cash to go around because of a real terms cut in benefits and tax credits. Increases of only 1 per cent for the next three years will hit people who can't find work but also millions of working families whose incomes are topped up by the state. The government likes to frame this debate in 'scroungers versus strivers'. Most of the people who will be hit do not fall into the first category. This will likely far outweigh the benefits of cancelling a planned increase in fuel prices.

The economic figures have made hard reading for the government. Credit: PA Wire

There are measures like extending the rates holiday for some small firms that business will like. But there is nothing that will have a dramatic effect on the picture. The British Chambers of Commerce have already said it is 'tinkering round the edges'.

And although the numbers show a far weaker economic picture than the government had hoped for, they still include some heroic assumptions. It is far from certain that further tax avoidance measures will bring in anything like the billions that have been promised. Business investment rising by five per cent next year sounds pretty optimistic to me.

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