Britain to unveil pre-election budget pledges

3rd December 2014, Comments 0 comments

Britain's finance minister George Osborne will Wednesday give an update on the country's financial health in a key budget announcement ahead of next year's general election.

With Britons heading for the polls in May 2015, the coalition is likely to hold back from announcing fresh austerity measures that have dominated budgets since the government came to power four and a half years ago.

Instead, investment pledges across British infrastructure and the National Health Service are set to be revealed.

But he is expected to confirm that Britain will fall well short of his pledge to eliminate its budget deficit, thought to stand at around £90 billion (114 billion euros, $140 billion) before the election.

Osborne, a key figure in centre-right Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government, delivers his so-called Autumn Statement before parliament at 1230 GMT.

The statement precedes Britain's full annual budget announcement, which usually occurs each March.

"Although the Autumn Statement is typically little more than a charade, where previously pledged money is recycled, there is always the potential for surprises," noted Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at stockbrokers Interactive Investor.

"This is particularly relevant this year, as the budget in March may be too late for George Osborne to influence the economic debate ahead of the general election."

She added: "However, any major tax giveaways today would leave the UK finances in a far less sound condition than had been intended at the start of the government's tenure."

Britain's economy is outperforming the eurozone but in recent months market analysts have raised concerns over the impact of falling inflation on British wage growth.

With many workers failing to win salary increases, the government has seen tax receipts shrink, hindering its bid to shrink the deficit.

On Wednesday, the government also provides its latest forecasts for British economic growth and public finances.

Ahead of the statement, Britain on Monday pledged to put in place plans for £15 billion ($24 billion, 19 billion euros) of investment in roads infrastructure over the next five years.

Osborne is also pledging an extra £2 billion of funding for the National Health Service.

© 2014 AFP

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