Chancellor George Osborne will try to get his austerity drive – and his own political ambitions – back on track on Wednesday, without upsetting voters before the nation’s EU membership referendum.
Osborne, who portrays himself as an unflinching guardian of the public finances, has slipped from the top of the list of contenders to be Britain’s next prime minister, thanks to a slowing economy and some missteps on his part last year.
Government plans to turn a budget deficit into a surplus by the end of the decade look off course, and on Sunday Osborne said he would need to announce fresh spending cuts in his annual budget statement to parliament, which starts at 1230 GMT.
But with voters split on whether to stay in the European Union in June’s referendum, he is likely to play it safe and delay the extra squeeze on spending until the later years of the decade.
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