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Chancellor downplays tax-cut hopes

Analysts have warned that the latest public sector finance statistics leave the Chancellor with little room to offer tax cuts when he delivers his Autumn Statement next month.

ONS data recently revealed that government borrowing totalled £11.6bn in August, the fourth highest amount ever recorded for that month. The figure was also £3.5bn more than the government borrowed in the same month last year and was slightly ahead of analysts’ expectations.

While inclusion of the latest data does still leave the fiscal year-to-date deficit comfortably below the most recent forecast published by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), analysts typically believe there remains little scope for potential tax cuts in the near future. This reflects the expected economic slowdown, which is likely to hit tax revenues, as well as anticipated upward revisions to OBR projections due to higher debt interest costs.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt also recently acknowledged that rising debt interest payments caused by higher long-term interest rates were putting increased pressure on the public finances. He also admitted it would be “virtually impossible” to include tax cuts in his upcoming fiscal update. Earlier in the month, Mr Hunt announced he will deliver this year’s Autumn Statement on 22 November.

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