Hopes Chancellor will make a decision about A14 toll in Autumn Statement
- Credit: Archant
The Chancellor will deliver his Autumn Statement on Thursday amid a mood of economic optimism. Political editor Annabelle Dickson asks who will be given some Christmas cheer and who will be disappointed.
With better-than-expected public finances over the last few months the chancellor has a nice dilemma.
To stick to his spending plans and save the sweeteners for the months before the next general election in 2014/2015, or dole out some good news now.
Campaigners against plans to toll an upgrade to the A14 will be hoping it will be the latter and George Osborne has listened to their concerns.
With a very vocal opposition, including the EDP, huge political pressure from MPs in his own party and an increasing realisation of the arguments about the detrimental impact on East Anglian businesses, he may want to make a decision about whether he will press ahead with the charge sooner rather than later.
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But he still wants to stick to the message that his fiscal stance has served the country well and it would be a major mistake to change course.
In his pre-mini-budget assessement IHS Global economist Howard Archer said he believed there could be some limited infrastructure investment initiatives, with the chancellor highlighting these as important to securing the economy's upturn and supporting longer-term economic performance.
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Whether that will be avoiding the A14 toll is not yet clear, and campaigning MPs are still unsure if he will make a decision.
But Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley believes there will be a development.
'Don't ask me what is going to happen, I have no idea,' he said. 'But if there is an announcement, which I believe there will be, and it is to go ahead, then I will continue my campaign.'
'The second possibility is that they have heeded the tough and uncompromising campaign of opposition to this toll mounted by councils, business bodies, chambers of commerce and the majority of Suffolk MPs, who have asked very pointed questions of the prime minister in recent weeks.
'Only a U-turn on this will satisfy me,' said Mr Ruffley. 'I am not interested, to be blunt, in 'we still want this tax, but we might amend the implementation'. That will not satisfy me and my campaign will go ahead.
'The only thing that will be acceptable to me will be a clear acceptance by the chancellor that you cannot just toll one road in one county.'
The chancellor will argue that he is helping motorists, confirming that he is freezing fuel duty – a policy he announced that Tory party conference in Manchester last month.
While the A14 will be the main update the region's businesses will be looking at, the Treasury is expected to address concerns about the impact of increases in business rate.
Recent figures show hundreds of pounds could be added to business rate bills in the region next year and could sound the death knell for some of the region's high streets.
According to new figures, the average business in Norwich could see its annual bill increase by £440, with enterprises in Broadland facing annual hikes of £290.
In September, Labour leader Ed Miliband promised to return business rates on properties with an annual rental value of less than £50,000 in 2015 to the same level of the previous year, and said he would freeze business rates for those properties at that level in 2016 if his party wins power.
While there is unlikely to be a freeze on business rates, Mr Osborne is expected to announced that there will be business rate exemptions for small businesses.
But it will not all be good news and handouts.
The chancellor will unveil new measures to curb tax avoidance, according to report.