As the chancellor gets onto his feet at around 3.30pm this afternoon, for his annual budget statement, he is under a lot of pressure to show us that he’s willing to spend more to prove that the Prime Minister's promise of ending austerity will happen in coming years.
That said this is the last budget before we’re set to leave the European Union and without a deal yet, the Chancellor will be nervous to spend too much until the outcome of Brexit is known.
So where are the demands coming from in the West Country?
- Universal credit
This is the new benefits system that sees six benefits rolled into one monthly payment. It’s slowly being rolled out across the country.
As the roll out has gone on, many have complained that they are worse off. Therefore, pressure is on Philip Hammond to pump in extra money into the system.
He hinted over the weekend that he’s adapted budgets before to help Universal Credit claimants, which suggests he may be ready to make changes again today.
We’re heading into the winter months, the most difficult of the year for the NHS. To mark it’s 70th anniversary this year Theresa May promised billions of pounds of extra investment.
Today the Chancellor will have to tell us how he’s going to raise that. It could be through borrowing, putting up some taxes or making cuts to other departments.
Our part of the world has a proud military heritage and although Plymouth based war ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark have been recently saved and 8 new frigates are on order for Devonport, the Ministry of Defence is yet to say where savings are going to be made.
There is uncertainty over some Royal Marines roles and also where they will be based.
Many MPs have told me they are looking to today’s budget for a sign that the Chancellor is willing to spend more on our Armed Forces. I think that’s looking unlikely and is a decision he will probably delay until a Government Spending Review next year.
- Council Funding
Philip Hammond is coming under increasing pressure to help Local Councils who’re struggling to balance the books.
In the West Country Somerset County Council is having to make millions of pounds worth of savings to balance its books. It is one of many across the Country.
The County’s MPs and Conservative Council Leader have been very publicly asking for more cash and hope today’s the day they’ll get it.
Ahead of his Budget today the Chancellor has already said that he is going to invest millions to improve the country’s road network.
In the West Country this means more cash for potholes, but many MPs hope there’ll also be major finding announcements for the dualing of the A303 now that consultations have been carried out.
Also cash to back up the Transport Secretary’s hope of dualing the remaining stages of the A30 through Cornwall.
The Chancellor has been left in no doubt by West Country MPs that he needs to stump up the cash to make the train line along the Devon coast more resilient, especially at Dawlish. Many are looking at his speech today to do just that.
On a recent visit to Cornwall the Transport Secretary told me that he hopes work in Dawlish will start in 2020, to keep to that timetable cash could be pledged today.
- Cornwall stadium
The Government has been asked for £3million to part fund a Stadium for Cornwall. Those behind the bid are hoping the Chancellor will have good news later.
In all don’t expect the most exciting budget today, especially with uncertainty rife over Brexit.
The Chancellor has already said that if we leave the EU without a deal then he may have to change financial plans for the country.
He is also likely to make an announcement on how to help make the housing market more accessible to first time buyers.
He will also pledge to help our struggling high streets, Salisbury is one area hoping for extra investment as it looks to boost its tourism industry after the use of a nerve agent in the city earlier this year.
Many are expecting a lot from Philip Hammond today, in reality I don’t think there will be a huge amount, but if he wants to keep his Backbench MPs onside he will have to show that he is beginning to spend more and make sure we all see proof of that.