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Hammond has no rabbits – but there’s a real opportunity for businesses before Autumn Statement

In Osborne’s time as Chancellor at the Treasury, it was always about the rabbits he would pull out of the hat.

At Budgets and Autumn Statements, there would always be The Big Surprise, which was crafted to be the story of the day – and the front pages the next.

From reforms to pensions and savings, to stamp duty changes coming in overnight, and the soft drinks tax, they surprised, and often delighted.

The same applied at conferences, to a lesser extent. At last year’s conference this amounted to details of the Lloyds share offer to the public, plans to extend shared parental leave to grandparents, deductions in child benefit following truancy and plans to enable local government to keep 100% of local taxes by 2020.

Philip Hammond, however, is now doing things differently.

With the exception of confirming the extension of funding for British projects reliant on EU funding (a necessary announcement), and an omission that the government won’t hit its deficit reduction target (it wasn’t going to anyway), there was not a rabbit in sight when he gave his speech at Conservative conference this week.

In fact, Number 10 sources this week explained themselves that: “It’s not going to be the usual glittery PR show with everyone obsessing over which rabbits are going to be pulled out of hats. We’re saying: ‘We’re a serious government with a plan.’”

So what is Hammond’s plan as the UK government looks ahead to triggering Article 50? And what can we expect at the Autumn Statement, the next big Government moment on Brexit?

Well, today, the formal process for submitting ideas for Autumn Statement closes. Traditionally, these submissions are read by a central team in the Treasury and a summary note is shared with civil servants across the department to give a flavour of businesses requests, as policies are drawn up. An overview note also goes to the Chancellor.

But this year, in light of Hammond’s approach so far, expect these to go further. Ideas submitted which chime to Theresa May’s new agenda, and shed light on the impact of Brexit, will likely be followed up in more detail.

The new Chancellor is meeting businesses and has been explicit in his desire to ‘listen to businesses and organisations who represent people all over the country’ in the lead up to the Autumn Statement.

And with a likely updated Productivity Plan up his sleeve, an eye on support for R&D, further devolution powers planned and a push forward in corporate tax cuts all given a nod to this week in his speech, you could argue that Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement speech in seven weeks is there for the writing.

He may not have many rabbits planned, so if businesses and organisations know that there are some that he should, now is the time to share them.

Organisations have until the end of today to fill out the Treasury’s Autumn Statement submissions survey, or email their ideas.

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