The budget's effect on growth? Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

The OBR confirms: this budget is tinkering around the edges.

The Chancellor closed his budget declaring that it was:

A Budget for a Britain that wants to be prosperous, solvent and free.

In actual fact, the budget is unlikely to do any of that. In fact, on the macro-scale, it will do precisely nothing. And that's not my estimate, that's the OBR's, which writes:

The Government has announced a number of policy measures that are expected to have a broadly neutral fiscal impact in aggregate between 2012-13 and 2017-18, with ‘giveaways’ almost exactly offsetting ‘takeaways’ over this period. Correspondingly, we also assume that they will have a broadly neutral effect on the economy, with no impact on the level of GDP at the end of the forecast horizon.

So the OBR thinks the fact that the budget is fiscally neutral means it is unlikely to have much effect on growth. But what about the medium-term changes?

The reduction in the main rate of corporation tax from 2015-16 has a small positive effect on business investment in our forecast, while the decision to abolish the contracted-out NICs rebate slightly reduces disposable income and household consumption. The Government has also decided to increase capital spending and reduce current departmental spending from 2015-16. Given the long time horizon and the fact that the overall net effect of these changes is relatively small, we have not adjusted our overall GDP forecast.

No change there then. It goes on and on. Introducing an allowance for employers' national insurance contributions:

Given the small size of these potential effects we have not made any explicit adjustments to our forecast.

The expansion of the Help to Buy scheme, the Build to Rent Fund, and the Right to Buy scheme:

…likely to have a relatively small additional impact on transactions and residential investment.

The only major impact assessed is with the cut in beer duty and fuel duty, which are likely to reduce CPI inflation by around 0.1 percentage points for 12 months.

That's it.

It's not a budget for prosperity, it's not a budget for growth. It's a budget for nothing at all.

Freya, the Number 11 cat. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Getty
Show Hide image

How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496