Business lookahead: w/c 12 March

Scottish retail sales figures, Nokia de-lists and the iPad arrives.


  • Federation of small businesses releases its latest voice of small business index: information on regional businesses by sector.
  • BDO reveals the biggest monthly increase in business optimism since December 2009.



  • G4S: full year preliminary results from the international security solutions group.
  • Prudential releases full year results. Reports have suggested the retail financial services group was considering moving its headquarters from London to Asia.
  • Deloitte launches its annual State of the Media Democracy survey.
  • The US Industry Coalition, the association of high-technology businesses and research institutions, holds its annual meeting in Washington.
  • DCLG House Price Index.



  • Scottish retail sales figures.
  • Legal & General: full year preliminary results for the investment and insurance services group.
  • Business in the Community publishes the results of its annual corporate responsibility index.



  • The publisher Trinity Mirror releases its full year preliminary results.
  • Home Retail Group’s end of year trading statement will provide a health check on Argos.
  • The British Chambers of Commerce holds its annual conference in London. Speakers include Vince Cable, UK business secretary, and Ed Balls, shadow chancellor.



  • New Apple iPad goes on sale in Britain and America.
  • Nokia’s final day of trading Frankfurt Stock Exchange before de-listing.


Nokia to de-list from Frankfurt Stock Exchange, Getty images
Getty Images.
Show Hide image

How austere will Philip Hammond be?

The Chancellor must choose between softening or abandoning George Osborne's approach in his Autumn Statement. 

After becoming Chancellor, Philip Hammond was swift to confirm that George Osborne's budget surplus target would be abandoned. The move was hailed by some as the beginning of a new era of fiscal policy - but it was more modest than it appeared. Rather than a statement of principle, the abandonment of the 2019-20 target was merely an acceptance of reality. In the absence of additional spending cuts or tax rises, it would inevitably be missed (as Osborne himself recognised following the EU referendum). The decision did not represent, as some suggested, "the end of austerity".

Ahead of his first Autumn Statement on 23 November, the defining choice facing Hammond is whether to make a more radical break. As a new Resolution Foundation report notes, the Chancellor could either delay the surplus target (the conservative option) or embrace an alternative goal. Were he to seek a current budget suplus, rather than an overall one (as Labour pledged at the last general election), Hammond would avoid the need for further austerity and give himself up to £17bn of headroom. This would allow him to borrow for investment and to provide support for the "just managing" families (as Theresa May calls them) who will be squeezed by the continuing benefits freeze.

Alternatively, should Hammond merely delay Osborne's surplus target by a year (to 2020-21), he would be forced to impose an additional £9bn of tax rises or spending cuts. Were he to reject any further fiscal tightening, a surplus would not be achieved until 2023-24 - too late to be politically relevant. 

The most logical option, as the Resolution Foundation concludes, is for Hammond to target a current surplus. But since entering office, both he and May have emphasised their continuing commitment to fiscal conservatism ("He talks about austerity – I call it living within our means," the latter told Jeremy Corbyn at her first PMQs). For Hammond to abandon the goal of the UK's first budget surplus since 2001-02 would be a defining moment. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.