I have now been chancellor for just seven weeks and having spent a day last week talking to local businesses, I thought I would share some broader reflections about our economy.
We face huge challenges, of course. No country is unscathed by Putin’s war in Ukraine or the aftermath of the pandemic, which is why inflation is even higher in countries like the Netherlands and Austria. Interest rates have risen not just here but even faster in America and Canada. And the fall in forecast growth has been bigger in Germany.
But that does not mean it is not very tough for many people struggling to make ends meet. So alongside the important work of showing we can balance our books and pay our debt, I wanted, in my autumn statement, to give help to particular groups of people in difficulty and support public services like schools and the NHS.
In the end, though, the most important thing I can do for the economy is help bring down inflation. Sky-rocketing food prices and energy bills are the biggest cause of distress for many families – particularly those on lower incomes. By taking difficult decisions I can help stop the rises and make things easier of family finances.
I am lucky to have clever Treasury officials working for me, some of the very best I have ever worked with. What they tell me is that if we take these difficult decisions, we can not just get through to the other side but have one of the most successful economies in Europe. Why? Because we have seven of the world’s top 20 universities, Europe’s largest technology sector and one of the world’s biggest financial centres.
We therefore have a chance to be the world’s next Silicon Valley with real strengths in key new areas like artificial intelligence.
And where better for those new technology businesses than wonderful Farnham, Godalming or Haslemere?
We have excellent connections to London, good broadband speeds (with the odd exception) and stunning countryside. More local businesses in that sector would be good news not just for local jobs but also local pubs, restaurants and shops.
So, in short, this year has been about stabilisation and next year will be about growth. South West Surrey’s first Chancellor of the Exchequer has his work cut out!