Dec 5 - British Finance Minister George Osborne delivered an upbeat economic message for the first time since taking office in his economic update, announcing is set to announce stronger growth forecasts and a turning point in his battle to fix public finances in an update on the UK budget, but as Joanna Partridge reports falling living standards mean he cannot declare victory yet.
One retailer banking on the British recovery. US favourite Williams-Sonoma Inc. chose London for its first European store under its West Elm brand. The group's President and CEO Laura Alber hopes a healing economy will lead to a healthier high street. SOUNDBITE: Laura Alber, President and CEO, Williams-Sonoma Inc. saying (English): "People's homes are no longer losing value and so people feel better about spending money on them. And we all know that our home is one of, is the most important asset we own and it really defines us, and that's the business that we're in." It's just the latest foreign retailer opening in Britain, and the timing's interesting. For the first time since taking office in 2010, Britain's Finance Minister George Osborne was able to deliver a more upbeat message in his half-yearly economic update. SOUNDBITE: George Osborne, British Finance Minister, saying (English): "Britain's economic plan is working, but the job is not done. We need to secure the economy for the long term and the biggest risk to that comes from those who would abandon the plan. We seek a responsible recovery, one where we don't squander the gains we've made but go on taking the difficult decisions." Osborne sees the turnaround as vindication of his austerity plans. Unemployment has fallen, growth forecasts have been raised and the UK's just seen the first big fall in public borrowing in nearly four years. SOUNDBITE: George Osborne, British Finance Minister, saying (English): "Britain is currently growing faster than any other major advanced economy. Faster than France, which is contracting, faster than Germany, faster even than America." PTC: International investment in the UK is certainly a show of faith in the country's economic recovery. But there are still questions over whether the improvement is being felt by most Britons yet, when prices are still rising faster than wages. That's been the main criticism from the opposition Labour party. Many Brits are still struggling - especially with rising energy prices. It's one of the main risks to the UK economy, along with its neighbours says Richard Wellings from the Institute of Economic Affairs. SOUNDBITE: Richard Wellings, Deputy Editorial Director, Institute of Economic Affairs, saying (English): "The euro zone, very slow growth there and the potential for some kind of financial collapse again with the banking system not having recovered properly in the euro zone and a lot of the problems being pushed back if you like and not solved. And then we have the infrastructure plan with a lot more investment in green energy and so on. This sounds like a very good idea, but in practice it's going to push up energy prices even further, it's really going to hit living costs hard." Politicians are already looking to the next election in 2015 - with living standards set to be a major issue for voters. Osborne may be relieved the economy has turned a corner - his task now is to ensure the recovery trickles down to all Brits.