The Spring Statement is one of two economic statements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer every year.
From Autumn 2017 the Autumn Statement has been replaced by the Spring Statement and the government has said it has moved to “a single major fiscal event each year - the Budget”.
As the government says, it’s not a “major” fiscal event - that’s the Budget - but right now you could be forgiven for missing it even if it was.
As the journalist Laura Kuenssberg tweeted: “Cabinet meeting shortly, #pmqs [Prime Minister’s Questions] later, and the small matter of the spring statement - which on any other day would have been a huge political moment in and of itself… however, its 2019”.
The Budget is a financial and political affair in which the Chancellor sets out both to reassure existing party supporters and woo new fans.
In that sense, the Spring Statement is the same just not as big a deal as the main event, at which major announcements on tax and spending are normally made. The Chancellor himself has dubbed it a fiscal “non-event”.
Why are we bothering with the Autumn Statement at all?
That’s a good question. Dharshini David, economics correspondent at the BBC, wrote recently:
“Since 1975, the government has been legally obliged to produce its projections for the economy and the public finances twice a year.
“Chancellors have interpreted this in different ways, with most opting for a main annual Budget and then a mini version.
“In 2016, however, Mr Hammond said that he’d be focusing on an autumn budget and he seems determined to uphold this.”
What’s the one thing in the Spring Statement worth celebrating this year?
As predicted, no major announcements, however free sanitary products for secondary schools to tackle “period poverty” is great news.
As we wrote ahead of the Budget last year, it would be great if the Chancellor would scrap VAT on tampons and other sanitary products completely.
They attract VAT of 5%. As Claire wrote at the time; “This is less than the standard VAT rate of 20% , which applies to most goods, but it’s still unfair when you consider that other products - such as most food - are entirely free of VAT.”
A 2015 petition to scrap the “tampon tax” attracted more than 300,000 signatures but the Government said EU rules prevented it from cutting VAT below the 5% level.
The announcement of free sanitary products in schools is a massive step and should help girls who did not choose to be born either female or in poverty.
Amika George, who started campaigning for free sanitary products in schools when she was 17, was shocked to learn some girls were missing school because they could not afford them.
She has said of today’s announcement: “Part of the reason period poverty hasn’t been addressed is because of the taboo around the subject. But now so many more people are talking about it - it’s almost like there’s a period revolution happening at the moment.”
Talking of her campaigning, Amika, who is now 19 and at university, said: “I was literally 17 years old, doing it from my laptop in my bedroom. I think it’s testament to the fact that politics is really changing at the moment. Young people don’t have to rely on MPs to start campaigns, they can do it themselves using social media.”