UK Budget date to be revealed

Alistair Darling is to announce the date of the budget on Wednesday morning, the Treasury has disclosed.

There is intense speculation that it will be held on March 24.

A Treasury spokesman declined to comment on the date, but confirmed that it would be published in a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons early on Wednesday.

According to reports, Gordon Brown settled on March 24 as the best date for the Chancellor’s last financial statement before the general election. The Prime Minister could then call the election soon after, heralding the start of a campaign proper.

Mr Brown will on Wednesday make what aides are describing as a “major” speech on the economy, which will take centre stage in the election.

The announcement of the budget date will see the parties step up hostilities as the timeframe of the campaign ahead becomes more clear. There has been uncertainty about whether there would even be a budget before the election. The Tories promised to hold one within 50 days of polling day if they form the next government.

A March 24 budget would make it highly unlikely for an election to take place before May 6, when council elections are already set to take place.

After the announcement, Mr Darling will come under strong pressure to use the budget to give much more detail about how he plans to reduce the deficit. The annual rate of borrowing is expected to reach about £178 billion this year, a record level many times that of a few years ago.

Tory leader David Cameron and shadow chancellor George Osborne insist the Government is putting growth and interest rates at risk by delaying moves to bring down the deficit. They are determined to make the economy one of the defining issues of the general election campaign, arguing that Labour has left voters worse off since 2005.

Mr Brown has been pinning his hopes, at least in part, on the economy bouncing back strongly from the recession in the early months of 2010.

Source: Press Association

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