Philip Hammond produced a few rabbits from the hat in his Budget speech, promising more money for the NHS and abolishing stamp duty for many first-time buyers.
But there were a few things he missed out of his Commons speech.
Borrowing higher than expected
The chancellor stressed that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) expects public sector net borrowing to fall every year from 2017/18 to 2023.
But he didn’t mention the fact that the OBR also makes it clear that borrowing is set to be significantly higher than previously predicted, partly thanks to today’s tax and spending announcements:
Compared to the forecasts the wachdog put out in March, borrowing is now predicted to be more than £50bn higher from 2017/18 to 2021/22, with more than £17bn of this down to government decisions.
Projected growth lower than other advanced economies
Mr Hammond read out the latest growth projections, but he didn’t make any international comparisons.
The OBR does, saying: “The slowdown in UK GDP growth so far this year contrasts with a pick-up in other advanced economies.
“Real GDP growth averaged 0.3 per cent a quarter in the UK in the first three quarters of 2017, down from 0.5 per cent in the second half of 2016.
“In the euro area, US, Canada and Japan, quarterly growth so far this year has been stronger than in the second half of 2016 and stronger than in the UK.”
Accounting change “distorted” the debt figures
Like borrowing, public sector net debt is also forecast to fall every year after a high in 2017/18.
Again, progress will be slower than expected in March.
The OBR notes that when governments focus on headline figures like total debt, it’s tempting for them to do things that change that number, even if it doesn’t alter the underlying health of the economy.
For instance, in this Budget, the national debt figures have been “distorted” by the reclassification of housing associations from the public to the private sector.
This gets debt off the government’s books, but it’s an accounting change rather than a real improvement in the country’s finances.
The OBR says the government might have officially renounced ownership of housing assocations, but it doesn’t change their real exposure to the risk: if associations were in financial difficulties, ministers would probably step in to bail them out.
Brexit has hurt the economy
The chancellor mentioned Brexit only twice in his speech, once to announce that he is setting aside £3bn to prepare for Britain’s exit from the European Union.
He didn’t mention that the OBR thinks the referendum decision has already hurt the British economy.
The watchdog says weak productivity is the main reason it has revised down its growth forecasts, but it also says Brexit played a part.
What will the negotiations mean for the economy? The OBR says it hasn’t been given any information about a possible deal that isn’t in the public domain, meaning there is “considerable uncertainty” about the post-Brexit future.