by Rohan Day, of Armstrong Watson

SQUEEZED between the drama of Brexit votes, it would be easy to have overlooked that the Chancellor also recently made his Spring Statement.

This is not a Budget as we know it; that now takes place in the Autumn and is when the annual tax and spending announcements are made. Instead, the Spring Statement is an opportunity for the Chancellor to update on the overall health of the economy and the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) forecasts for economic growth and the public finances.

As we predicted he would, Mr Hammond made much of the economic good news around tax receipts and high employment. But he revealed that projected growth in the economy for 2019 has been downgraded from 1.6% to 1.2%.

Nevertheless, our economy has enjoyed nine consecutive years of growth and has grown faster than France, Italy or Japan, and the OBR has forecast further growth every year for the next 5 years. Year on year, Government borrowing has already been reduced by four-fifths since 2009-10, with debt falling last year, and is forecast to fall continuously to 73.0% of GDP in 2023-24, compared to the peak of 85.1% in 2016-17.

Not surprisingly, there were also some headline initiatives which included:

* Spending to Reduce Crime: A package of £100m of spending was announced to be targeted to reduce knife crime in the most violently affected areas.

* Tech and the New Economy: Significant additional support was announced for cutting-edge science and technologies that will transform the economy, create highly skilled jobs, and boost living standards across the UK. Specifically the Chancellor welcomed the Furman Review and the government will respond later in the year to the review’s calls to update competition rules for the digital age.

Spending Review: The Chancellor also confirmed that the government will hold a Spending Review which will conclude alongside the Budget. This will set departmental budgets, including three-year budgets for resource spending, if an EU exit deal is agreed.

It is clear that whatever relatively good economic news there is, it is subject to both the realities and the uncertainty factor of just what solution we end up with to the Brexit question. Achieving certainty and stability is an essential aspiration for our country and for businesses which are striving to make the best of the opportunities which do exist.