Britain's budget gap unexpectedly widened last month, underscoring finance minister Philip Hammond's challenges as he juggles calls for more spending in his budget on Wednesday with the prospect of weaker economic growth ahead. David Pollard reports.
Budget week in Britain. It'll be finance minister Philip Hammond's third since taking office. Recent electoral losses - plus stalling Brexit talks - building a sense that it's also his most important. SOUNDBITE (English) CMC MARKETS, MARKET ANALYST, DAVID MADDEN, SAYING: "If Mr. Hammond can't pull something out of the bag and actually show that he's got a real economic plan for the UK that's going to really knock investor confidence in the British economy." Though that took another knock anyway on Tuesday's government borrowing figures. The deficit: up nearly seven per cent on the year, bucking a trend of improvement. Taxes on business revenues down for a fourth straight month. And growth in consumer tax revenues narrowing. As perhaps are Hammond's options amid slowing UK output. To, ironically, just one ... SOUNDBITE (English) IG SENIOR ANALYST, CHRIS BEAUCHAMP, SAYING: "The government can afford to spend more. Really we've seen years of austerity, we've seen the government pushing its target to balance the books further and further out." Hammond has said he wants to balance the budget by the middle of the next decade. In the meantime, pundits expect a boost to house-building as a central message. But with downward revisions to growth forecasts. And while addressing the other big sum of the week - Britain's settlement with the EU. SOUNDBITE (English) CMC MARKETS, MARKET ANALYST, DAVID MADDEN, SAYING: "If Mr. Hammond does have any headaches that the final amount for the Brexit divorce is going to be a real headache." Reports on Tuesday say the UK is now ready to offer 40 billion pounds - twice what it originally wanted to. Leaving the man the markets call Spreadsheet Phil with some even trickier figures to announce on Wednesday.