GDP growth predictions cut to 1.4% for 2017

Britain has cut its official forecasts for economic growth for the next two years, finance minister Philip Hammond said on Wednesday, as he delivered the country's first budget statement since voters chose to leave the European Union.

Brexit "makes more urgent than ever the need to tackle our economy's long-term weaknesses", Hammond told parliament in his Autumn Statement exactly five months after the referendum.

"We will maintain our commitment to fiscal discipline while recognizing the need for investment to drive productivity and fiscal headroom to support the economy through the transition", he added.

He also said the Government would be spending on new infrastructure to make sure Britain was in good shape for economic growth, and that billions of pounds would be ploughed into housing.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has unveiled an Autumn Statement which has given no real respite to local authority finances.

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"Today's statement places on record the abject failure of the last six wasted years (since Labour lost power) and offers no hope for the future".

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However, he said the OBR's forecast for 2017 has dropped significantly, from 2.2% made at the time of the March Budget to 1.4%.

Gross domestic product was expected to grow by only 1.4 percent next year - sharply down from the prior estimate of 2.2 percent given in March.

He also scrapped the usual format of Spring Budgets and Autumn Statements.

George Osborne had meant to eliminate the deficit completely and achieve a budget surplus, initially by the end of the last parliament, then by 2020, but repeatedly missed borrowing targets.

The second was that net public sector debt must be falling by the end of this parliament.

Hammond set himself an easier target for the budget deficit, saying he was targeting a shortfall of less than 2 percent of GDP by 2020, excluding cyclical swings in the economy. There has been a lot of chat about his air of doom and gloom although to be fair to him his main source of reference is the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) report on the facts (as they see them!), and they do look gloomy.

In its Economic and Fiscal Outlook the OBR said its central forecast assumes, "that the negotiation of new trading arrangements with the European Union and others slows the pace of import and export growth for the next 10 years".

Shares in leading estate agents tumbled after Britain said it would ban one-off tenant fees to try to bring down the cost of renting, the latest move to hit landlords.

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