Rishi Sunak insists economy is ‘on the right track’ ahead of pre-election budget

Rishi Sunak has insisted the UK economy is “on the right track” as he visited the site of the former Honda car factory on Monday morning.

The Japanese car giant’s plant in Wiltshire shut in 2021 with the loss of thousands of jobs. 

The site was sold to developer Panattoni to turn into a logistics hub.

The prime minister’s visit comes ahead of the spring budget on Wednesday, in which the chancellor will speak on government plans for public spending, including on schools, health and defence.

Accompanied by economic and fiscal outlooks from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the independent public finances forecaster, the budget lays out the government’s plans for raising and lowering taxes.

Changes to income tax and National Insurance have been suggested as possible options, as well the government taking Labour’s policy of scrapping the non-dom tax status.

Spring budget: Jeremy Hunt told scrapping non-dom tax status would leave ‘country worse off’

However, the financial picture means there has been limited space to make pre-budget announcements.

Addressing Panattoni staff working on the demolition and reconstruction of the site, Rishi Sunak said: “I think that’s a huge vote of confidence in the UK, and it shows that the work we’re doing to get the economy on the right track is paying off.

“Now, I’m determined, as prime minister, to make sure that the UK is the best place in the world to invest and grow a business like this.

“And that’s why we’ve been taking ambitious steps, like making full-expensing permanent, which is the biggest business tax cut in modern British history.

“It’s all about supporting businesses like this to invest in local areas and create jobs and opportunity for the future.”

Speaking this morning, economic secretary to the Treasury Bim Afolami said Jeremy Hunt will take a “balanced approach” at the budget and set out a blueprint for moving to a lower tax economy in a “sustainable way”.

He told Sky News: “I not going to go into individual taxes and what may happen or individual spending allocations… what I can tell you is we are going to take a balanced approach.

“We have got to, broadly speaking, set out a path, as the Chancellor said yesterday, to a lower tax economy overall over the coming years.

“But we are only going to do that in a sustainable way and focus on increasing productivity in our public services.

“People have this debate, they say ‘well what about lower taxes’ or ‘you’re starving public services’ and whatever.

“Actually we need to make sure the outputs from public services are as good as possible so what people actually see, what they actually get, whether they get their hospital appointments, whether the police are clamping down on crime, that is why we are investing £800 million we are announcing today in improving the productivity of public services.”

Hunt has already announced plans for an £800m package of technology reforms which government hopes will free up public sector workers.

The chancellor has claimed that “we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking more spending buys us better public services” — and that the £800m investment will yield £1.8bn in benefits by 2029.

Meanwhile, former home secretary, Dame Priti Patel has urged Jeremy Hunt to “throw the kitchen sink” at the nation’s problems in his Budget on Wednesday.

The former home secretary told GB News: “I want my party to win the next election and I want to win with Rishi Sunak, quite frankly.

“This is not about anything else. I don’t want a Labour government. End of story. I’m a diehard Conservative and I want my party to be successful.

“And that is why, Jeremy Hunt has said, this is the last Budget before the general election. Throw the kitchen sink at it, have the vision and have the ideas that our country desperately wants to see.”

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