Budget date set for April 22nd

By politics.co.uk staff

This year’s Budget will take place on April 22nd, chancellor Alistair Darling has announced.

The date, confirmed to MPs this morning, is the latest for any Budget under New Labour.

Mr Darling is expected to be forced to admit his economic growth forecasts in last year’s Pre-Budget report were too optimistic.

At the time the chancellor said the UK economy would return to growth in the second half of the year.

But Mervyn King – the governor of the Bank of England – warned yesterday of a four per cent slump in 2009 as the country battles a “deep recession”.

However, Mr King did predict a sharp climb out of the recession – as Mr Darling’s tax stimulus, low interest rates, and the low value of the pound boost the economy.

This year’s Budget will take place after the London meeting of the G20, when Barack Obama is expected to make his first trip to the UK since becoming US president.

Meanwhile, Mr Darling has poured water on fresh reports the weakness of sterling could compel Britain to join the euro.

“It’s simply not an issue to be raised,” he told Italian media, while attending the meeting of European Union Finance Ministers (ECOFIN) in Brussels.

At last year’s Budget, Mr Darling predicted the UK economy would grow between 1.75 per cent and 2.25 per cent in 2008, with GDP growth of 2.25 per cent to 2.75 in 2009 and 2.5 to 3 per cent by 2010.

In the final quarter of 2008, GDP actually contracted by 1.5 per cent – following a 0.6 per cent fall in the previous quarter.