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The Budget and Wales: What to look out for

Philip Hammond's second budget will come under intense scrutiny Credit: PA, Philip Toscano

When Philip Hammond delivers his second budget today it will be amid massive financial and political pressure in the turmoil following June's election and the ongoing difficulties of Brexit.

The Chancellor is rumoured to be facing criticism from within his own party and the possibility of losing his job in a New Year reshuffle.

Meanwhile there's no shortage of calls from politicians, businesses and campaigners here in Wales for him to take action.

Here are some of the things to look out for.

There'll be disappointment for supporters of a Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon because there won't be any announcement about it today.

Yesterday over a hundred businesses wrote to the Prime Minister calling for the project to get the green light, fearing that this budget is its last chance. UK Government sources say its absence today won't spell its end.

The First Minister wrote his own letter to Theresa May this week calling again for devolution of Air Passenger Duty. He'll be disappointed too; UK Government sources continue to rule out the transfer of power over that tax to Wales despite it being already devolved to Northern Ireland and soon to Scotland.

There is likely to be some news of plans for a North Wales Growth deal to follow similar deals for the areas around Cardiff and Swansea. There are hints too that we might see the first moves towards a Mid-Wales Growth Deal.

There's likely to be extra money for the Welsh Government, if as reported the Chancellor announces new spending in England on areas that are devolved to Wales, such as building 300,000 new homes, health and transport. Ministers in Cardiff could be getting a sizeable extra amount because the figures I'm hearing are much higher than expected or that we've become used to.

They won't be obliged to spend it on the same priorities although there will be political pressure on the Welsh Government to use it in similar ways, for instance to help homebuyers.

Welsh ministers could also be expected to act on NHS pay. There had been reports that Philip Hammond could give NHS staff a pay rise although others now suggest he won't. The controversial 1% public sector pay cap has already been breached in the cases of police and prison officers.

Health is devolved to the Welsh Government but Carwyn Jones has repeatedly resisted calls from Plaid Cymru to end the pay cap here, saying it must be done on a UK-wide basis. That line of defence could be removed from him today.

It's been widely predicted that the Chancellor will reduce the tax you pay when buying a home, Stamp Duty, to help first time buyers.

That will turn the focus on the Welsh Government too. Here in Wales, stamp duty is being abolished and replaced by a Wales-only Land Transaction Tax which comes into force in April.

As it stands, it'll be more generous than in England. In Wales, you wouldn't have to pay the new tax unless you buy a home worth more than the Wales average of £150,000 whereas in England you pay Stamp Duty when you buy a home worth £125,000 or more.

That could change though if Philip Hammond moves to cut the tax in England. Some predict that he may even ensure that first-time buyers there pay no Stamp Duty. It'll then be up to the Welsh Government to decide what to do here in Wales.

Talking of first time buyers, there's likely to be a development of the Help to Buy shared equity scheme in England. There's a similar scheme here in Wales - both governments will loan you 20% of the value of a property if you're struggling to raise the money. At the moment they're both due to run until 2021.

There's considerable pressure on the Chancellor to announce some Brexit spending.

Plaid Cymru wants him to guarantee that ‘Wales will continue to receive the same levels of funding after Brexit, including agriculture payments, structural funds and research and development funding, as well as a significant boost to NHS funding.’

Meanwhile the former Brexit Minister and Clwyd South MP, David Jones told the Observer that the Chancellor should set aside at least £1bn to prepare for the possibility of a ‘no-deal Brexit’ to pay for customs infrastructure and officers and to send a signal of the UK's seriousness in negotiations with the EU.