Ever since Gordon Brown was Chancellor, now some 20 years ago (!!) Budgets have become a real tedious non-event.
Successive Chancellors have had seemingly little wiggle room since April 2003 when the introduction of tax credits totally gummed up the system. In 2015 the spending on tax credits reached £30 billion - a budget far more than almost any other Government department. Tax and Benefits (mainly pensions) rose to £125 billion.
Then, since the recession, the national debt has climbed and along with it our debt repayments up to a whopping £46 billion a year now - even with record low interest rates (the true next spend is around £33 billion, because the Bank of England owns a lot of the bonds and the interest the Govt owns therefore really goes to itself!).
These two spending items are what economists like to call structural spending. Whether the Government wants to or not, this spending will come out of the coffers. Many bits are tied to agreed laws and cannot really be altered, in the case of Government debt, we have to pay or else default.
This huge take of money from the budget, something like 6%, has come from nowhere. All the cuts made do not even finance it, hence we still have a 4% budget deficit and a big chunk of that is structural deficit which is why it is so hard to close.
Due to the above, successive Chancellors have been faced with the task of raising taxes to try to increase revenues to close the structural deficit or cut spending in other areas to allow room for these items to grow.
This is why we had the 10p tax budget, the pasty tax fiasco and the IR35 nonsense last year. All Chancellors are hamstrung by needing to further raise taxes, more if they want to reduce corporate tax etc.
Which is why all the spending in the budgets is so piddly, a billion on a road or ten billion over 20 years on a railway etc. There is no capacity for anything; unless your are Labour in which case you can add 10% to the national debt and spend away - but there is no evidence that ever works. If you look at USA and UK since the recession, we did austerity and they did Obama splurge. Both economies have grown about the same, but the US now has a much larger national debt - it was not worth it.
Interestingly Ireland and Iceland actually did full on cuts and real austerity for all and have recovered better overall now with economies in much better shape. As we said at the time, we would suffer long-term for the lack of political will to do the necessary back then.
So tomorrow we will get another spend nothing, gimmicky and fiddly budget - there is no alternative as long as the consensus to payout tax credits and increase the national debt remains in place for our political leaders. Personally, I don't get why we do tax credits at all, subsidizing the low pay economy is the worst policy we have at the moment, amongst a bad lot - as it only seeks to further accelerate our transformation into a low wage economy.