Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Article excerpt


"BANKERS have a lot to answer for," said Richard Rutherford, who has successfully steered his family run department store on Morpeth's high street through three recessions.

I asked him what he was looking for in the Autumn Statement. He shook his head. "The lower and middle income earners, my customers, always take a hit. I thought Mrs May would fight their corner." He added, "I'm dreading going buying next year, prices are already going up."

Rutherford's handsome storefront stands next door to Iceland. The polarization of retail says a lot about our society and economy. It has come down to survival of the fittest.

The Autumn Statement hinted at just how painful Brexit is going to be and the JAMs - the millions of the just about managing - will lose out from Britain's weak economic outlook. Brexit won't help most of the people who voted for it, the World Bank has warned.

The kind of Brexit we get is going to be more up to others than us. Brexit is the most important policy decisions for decades and we have the weakest hand. The bland uncertainty of the Autumn Statement shows Hammond is dealing with one hand tied behind his back.

Political opportunists led us up the garden path. Richard voted Remain but doesn't think any court, European or British, should contest Brexit; here we disagree as I hope Parliament saves us from ourselves.

The same political opportunists attacked the Office for Budget Responsibility and Resolution Foundation because of their unequivocal message - the UK will be poorer than was expected due to low growth and Brexit, the biggest losers being lower income families. If anything, the OBR has a history of being too optimistic so an assault on its professionalism is disgraceful.

Low productivity has been a bugbear for decades. Richard said investment in infrastructure is the best news in the Autumn Statement but with a budget of less than PS5bn a year it is hardly a game-changer. There is only so much to spread around but the Chancellor could have invested more in national infrastructure - something that should have been started years ago.

"Why can't we go back to manufacturing," Richard lamented, "and match venture capitalists up with entrepreneurs? …

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