There are, of course, always plenty of soundbites around Budgets.

The Tory fiscal events have been coming thick and fast in recent years.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt chose to call the latest one a “Budget for long-term growth”. And there was plenty of repetition of these words as he delivered his Budget speech today.

It seemed he was determined to paint a picture of the Conservatives as fine stewards of economic growth.

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts, however, do not signal a strong growth outlook by historical standards, following the UK economy’s fall into recession.

The OBR, set up in 2010 by former chancellor George Osborne to provide independent forecasts, also highlights the significant degree to which UK growth last year fell short of its projection.

It noted that gross domestic product “grew by only 0.1 per cent in 2023, undershooting our November forecast by 0.4 percentage points”.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the UK economy fell into recession with a second consecutive quarterly fall in GDP in the final three months of last year, during which GDP fell by 0.3%. GDP had declined by 0.1% in the three months to September.

The OBR forecasts that output growth will pick up to 0.8% in 2024 “as interest rates fall and real household incomes recover”.

This is slightly ahead of the 0.6% expansion projected by the International Monetary Fund, which expects the UK to be the second-weakest economy among the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations in terms of growth this year. However, the UK growth forecast by the OBR for this year is very weak by historical standards.

Growth is then forecast by the OBR to pick up to 1.9% in 2025 and 2% in 2026, before decelerating to 1.8% in 2027 and 1.7% in 2028.

Long gone are the days when the UK economy’s longer-term trend rate of annual growth was viewed as being 2.5% or even 2.75%.

The OBR now puts the UK’s “assumed trend rate” of growth at around one-and-two-thirds per cent.

And it observes: “Risks to our medium-term real GDP forecast remain elevated. The outlook for productivity growth is our most important and uncertain forecast judgement, and there is significant uncertainty over both our migration and [labour market] participation forecasts.”

Mr Hunt declared: “As growth returns, our plan is for economic growth not sustained through migration but one that raises wages and living standards for families.

“Not just higher GDP but higher GDP per head.”

The OBR, however, forecasts a 0.1% fall in GDP per capita this year, after a tumble of 0.7% in 2023, and then respective increases of 1.2%, 1.5%, 1.3% and 1.2% in 2025, 2026, 2027, and 2028. In November, it had forecast a rise of 0.1% in GDP per capita this year, and increases of 0.9%, 1.6%, 1.6% and 1.4% over the following four years.

João Sousa, deputy director of the University of Strathclyde’s highly regarded Fraser of Allander Institute, said: “The Chancellor made much of wanting to grow GDP per person, a better metric of how well the economy is doing than just GDP, which includes population growth - but the forecasts by the OBR are not particularly optimistic in that regard, and have been downgraded since November.”

The hard numbers in the OBR’s growth forecasts do not suggest grounds for the upbeat economic story told by Mr Hunt as he delivered his Budget speech.