“check against delivery” warned the advance copy of Rishi Sunak’s speech to the annual dinner of the Confederation of British Industry. This CBI event is a bringing-together of the great and the good of industry to hear from The Chancellor how he will keep the economy buoyant, and help them “invest, train, and innovate more”.
All afternoon the media previewed that Rishi was going to promise an Autumn budget to cut taxes, support business and investment, and improve living standards.
When he did get up to speak, following a colourful introduction by Cobra Beer magnate, and CBI President, Lord Bilimoria, he spoke of the importance of government being on the side of business, and the ‘perfect storm’ the UK found its finances in. What he missed though were the commitments that had been splashed across the bits, bytes and airwaves. Did he have a change of mind? Did he leave some of the pages from his speech at home? Or was he rushing to the airport for his meetings with European finance ministers in Germany that evening? It’s not clear.
What is clear though that coming out of the pandemic, where billions has been spent to keep the UK afloat, is a tough job for any Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chief Executives and Finance Directors in the room will have some sympathy. In local government we know that those who need to manage the treasury of local authorities will also feel his pain.
But that tough job is exactly what we need from Mr Sunak right now. In his introduction, Lord Bilimoria quoted Winston Churchill: “when you’re in a hole, keep digging!”. We will have to wait until the Autumn budget, to see if The Chancellor will wield his spade!