Chancellor Rishi Sunak has sparked speculation of delays to the budget, after failing to announce a date when publishing new forecasts, as is normally expected.
Sunak said he had instructed the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to prepare to present an economic and fiscal forecast to parliament on October 27, according to reports.
The forecast normally accompanies a budget or spending review by the chancellor – but neither were announced.
“It is unusual for the date to be announced like this. Given the unusual choreography, it could well mean the budget will be delayed. Or perhaps the Treasury is deferring a decision until closer to the time, Andrew Goodwin, UK economist at Oxford Economics, told The Times.
A three-year spending review is planned for the autumn, for which a new OBR forecast is required. The OBR is required by law to publish two forecasts a year that can be released to parliament.
Whitehall departments have been told to find savings of 5 per cent but the formal process has been postponed until after the parliamentary recess.
Since 2017 annual budgets are supposed to be scheduled for November or December so businesses have enough time to implement new tax rules before the next financial year begins the following April.
But in 2019 the budget was delayed until the following March because of the general election in December. In 2020 too, the autumn budget was pushed back to March 2021 because of the pandemic.
Speculation of a budget delay was first sparked earlier this month by reports that officials advised Sunak that waiting until the end of spring 2022 might provide him with more time to understand the true impact on firms, first reported by The Guardian.