UK’s Hunt to deliver budget on March 6 as election looms

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Jeremy Hunt will present the spring budget on March 6, in what is likely to be the government’s last major chance to prepare the ground for an election that must be held by January 2025.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives are heavily trailing the main opposition Labour Party in the polls, but the country’s weak economy and budget deficit mean Sunak and Hunt have little room for pre-election giveaways.

Many Conservative lawmakers have called for fresh tax cuts in the run-up to the election to help win back voters, many of whom are indicating they want change after 13 years of Conservative government.

According to the latest opinion poll by Ipsos in December, support for the Conservatives stood at 24%, far behind the opposition Labour Party’s 41%.

Hunt’s budget statement on March 6 will include tax and spending plans as well as new growth and borrowing forecasts and government debt issuance for the 2024/25 financial year.

The Treasury Department announced the date on X on Wednesday, saying that Hunt had asked the country’s Office for Budget Responsibility to prepare its forecasts for then.

Media reports in recent months have speculated the spring budget would contain new tax cuts, following on from breaks given to workers and businesses by Hunt in the autumn budget in November.

The Telegraph on Tuesday that Sunak was considering axing inheritance tax.

While official data released in December showed that the budget picture has deteriorated, public sector net borrowing was 24.4 billion pounds higher than in the April-November period a year earlier, a smaller debt interest bill thanks to slowing inflation that could restore some room for pre-election tax cuts.

(Reporting by Muvija M, Sarah Young and Farouq Sulieman; Editing by Nick Macfie)