In his first and last ‘Spring Budget’, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, declared a “new chapter” in the UK’s history as the country embarks on its journey to exit the European Union via Brexit. Much of the Budget’s focus was on social care and a rise in National Insurance costs for the self-employed. There was little that will significantly affect personal financial planning apart from a reduction next year in the £5,000 tax-free dividend allowance.
Mr Hammond stated that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) had confirmed “the continued resilience of our economy” and their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) projection had increased to 2% from their previous estimate of 1.4% in 2017. Overall borrowing for 2017 is forecast at £51.7bn, some £16.5bn, lower than his Autumn Statement forecast of £68.2bn. The Bank of England has a CPI inflation target of 2%; the OBR estimates the actual rate will reach 2.4% this year, 2.3% in 2018 and then 2% in 2019. National debt is estimated for 2017 at 86.6% of GDP, and then 88.8% for 2018.
The UK’s national debt now stands at almost £1.7 trillion or a sobering £62,000 per household.
In the latest ‘Household Finance Index’ from IHS Markit (HFI), released in mid-February (which is designed to anticipate the change in consumer spending behaviour), it was disclosed that their research has shown the strongest upturn in workplace activity for 14 months, as job insecurity continues to recede and income levels have increased since the turn of
However, offsetting this good news is both higher inflationary pressure, with the CPI now rising in February, and overall living costs also rising at their fastest pace since April 2013.
The net result of which is the fact that household finances are being squeezed at their second-largest rate since August 2014. The seasonally adjusted HFI itself was calculated at 42.5 points, down from 43.6 in January. Any reading below 50.0 indicates an overall decline in respondents’ perceived financial well-being. Looking forward, the seasonally adjusted index, which measures the “expectations for finances in 12 months’ time”, sat at 48.3, down from the 48.5 recorded in January and sitting below the important 50.0 mark for the 11th consecutive month.