Analysing the 2024 Spring Budget: are the Conservatives undeterred or unconvincing?

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Given the volume of announcements pre-released to the media, this year’s Spring Budget was broadly unsurprising, with no flashy and conspicuous policies emerging on Budget Day. However, this year still marked the final Spring Budget until the next General Election. Promises of economic growth, disposable income and prosperity are most central if Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt look to remain in their roles after the election. Certain policies, including National Insurance cuts and wider access to child benefit, might help win over some voters, but the resolute polling lead held by the Labour Party has not appeared weakened by the Budget.

The primary policy of the Spring Budget was National Insurance cuts for employees and the self-employed, down from 10% to 8% of pay. By the government’s forecasts, a person on £35 000 is likely to save roughly £450 a year from this policy. With the legacies of inflation, much of this supposed £450 saving is likely to have already evaporated. Tax cuts are common and popular in election build-ups, and the message Mr Hunt is trying to convey of a low-tax, high-growth economy is not novel, and a common election tactic used by the Conservatives. Unlike in previous years, this message might be far less compelling, with poor fiscal management under Ms Truss still sharp in voters’ minds.

The resolute polling lead held by the Labour Party has not appeared weakened by the Budget.

Equally, a rhetoric of tax cuts is quickly dampened when the Spring Budget is further explored. With tax bands for income tax and National Insurance frozen from 2021, and planned to do so until 2028, the process of fiscal drag means people are paying more tax. Pay rises will mean more and more voters will either start paying tax, or will rise to a higher threshold, most noticeably those entering the higher income tax bracket of 40% on earnings above £50 271. The announced abolition of “non-dom” tax status might have been predicted to be a boon for the Conservatives’ integrity, as well as providing a sizeable fiscal reward, yet there is no signal in public sentiment that this political contrition over Mrs Sunak’s own “non-dom” status has been well-received.

A voting bloc that the Conservatives are clearly targeting in the next election are parents of young families, with policies on child benefit and a reiteration of intent on partially subsidised childcare working to this purpose. The taper for full child benefit has been raised from a household income of £50 000 to £60 000, and partial child benefit from £60 000 to £80 000. This should boost disposable incomes of families, but similarly to the National Insurance cut, might be too little, too late. The soaring costs of mortgages – given the lagged effect of interest rate rises – and childcare costs have both impinged on families’ disposable incomes, and an increase in child benefit provision is likely to do little to reverse this trend.

Alongside its regular status as the party for low taxes and the party for families, the Spring Budget echoed the Conservatives’ reputation as being tough on crime. Mr Hunt’s announcement of a levy on vaping products from 2026 is fiscally advantageous, expected to raise upwards of £500mn in the fiscal year 2028-29, as well as a sign on cracking down on its illegal trade to children.


A voting bloc that the Conservatives are clearly targeting in the next election are parents of young families, with policies on child benefit and a reiteration of intent on partially subsidised childcare working to this purpose.

Commitments to green investment were announced as expected, with competing visions on how to reach net zero targets developing between the Conservatives and Labour. For Mr Hunt, these have taken the form of nuclear power, with investment in two sites in Anglesey and South Gloucestershire, as well as £120mn for offshore wind and carbon capture. The Conservatives’ environmental policy has been most attackable through its gradualism, and the continued freeze on fuel duty is likely to add to this, being an opportunity for the Labour Party and the Green Party to argue the Conservatives are willing to let over-reliance on fossil fuels continue.

The economic data the Spring Budget hinges on is particularly worthy of discussion this year, given how the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) portrays an increasingly different economic mood than other institutions such as the Bank of England. Much of the announcements on growth rely on the OBR’s enthusiasm that the next years will see a renaissance of productivity growth, appearing ever more dubious given how stagnant UK productivity has been since 2009. Promises of zero cuts to public spending are also under fire by many media outlets and economists. Despite public spending being pledged to remain at 1% above inflation, in spite of predictions it would be cut to 0.75%, the ringfencing of this towards the NHS, education, defence and foreign aid will all disproportionately receive this increase. Consequently, there is likely to be further real terms cuts in transport, infrastructure, and arts funding.

An election year Spring Budget has clear hallmarks of optimism and growth, contrived to suggest the incumbent party is effective and delivering on its manifesto promises. This year’s Spring Budget is no different, with particular attention given to families and working-age groups. However, with YouGov now reporting its latest polling predicts Labour would win over 400 seats at the next election, the tide for the Conservatives to turn is unequivocal. With a lack of trust and many budgetary contradictions, this year’s Spring Budget might do little to affect public sentiment.

Image: HM Treasury via Flickr

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