Autumn Statement: George Osborne to extend debt targets

This is a statement the chancellor would rather not have to make.

George Osborne will have to publish grim official forecasts with serious political and economic consequences. With growth much lower and borrowing much higher than he hoped, the chancellor may be forced to admit he's missing his own deficit and debt targets.

Mr Osborne won't boost spending in an effort to boost growth or cut it further in an effort to bring the deficit down quicker but, instead, he will extend what he once called "the age of austerity" by another year - until 2018.

He will spell out the welfare cuts as well as tax rises needed to raise £14bn in the first year after current spending plans runs out - the year following the general election in 2015.

Protracted coalition negotiations which took place at Nick Clegg's home two weekends ago produced a Lib Dem veto on benefit freezes and cuts targeted at the under-25s or families with more than two children, and a Conservative veto on any form of mansion tax.

What he does announce will be evidence - Mr Osborne will claim - that the government is confronting the country's problems, instead of ducking them. It's evidence, Labour and his other critics are sure to say, that he is failing even in his own terms.

Despite the predictable lack of Christmas cheer, the chancellor's aides insist that he still has some surprises to unwrap.

Nick Robinson, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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