With apologies to Herald readers for the break in my weekly column – I have been heads down, including over Saturday and Sunday, preparing the Autumn Statement with the prime minister.
It is an extremely difficult challenge because after Covid, many people have got used to the state being able to step in with limitless resources to fix big problems.
But in the end, as every family and business knows, you have to find a way to pay for things.
Balancing the books is not just to make accountants happy – it makes it possible to help people when they need it most.
Because we took difficult decisions in 2010, we were able to give the NHS a record £20.5bn increase in its annual budget when I was responsible for it.
We were then able to fund the furlough scheme for businesses during the pandemic, one of the most generous such schemes in the world.
Thanks to Rishi Sunak’s far-sighted decision to do it, unemployment remains at a record low, even after the lockdowns.
So once again we need to put our national finances back on an even keel.
I think most people understand there will need to be both tax rises and spending cuts if we are to tackle inflation and keep down the cost of mortgages and the weekly shop.
Some present this as a trade off between sound money and growth but in truth there is no trade off: growth is just not possible without the basic stability that comes from balancing our national books and bearing down on our debt.
In that, the Bank of England has a very important role and I want to work with them so that monetary policy which they run (interest rates) is pushing in the same direction as fiscal policy which the government is in charge of (tax and spend).
It is, of course, very challenging that base rates have just increased again but it is vitally important the Bank of England continues to do its job to restore the stability that comes with low inflation.
Last week I met the International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva at No11 who told me the IMF now predicts one-third of the world’s economy will be in recession next year, so this is a very tough global economic crisis.
So these are tough times for people everywhere. But we are a resilient, tough and resourceful country and have seen off even greater challenges many times before.
We also have some brilliant local businesses in Farnham, Godalming, Haslemere and our villages which I have been supporting through my South West Surrey Bounceback campaign.
Delivering the Autumn Statement will be perhaps one of the biggest responsibilities I have undertaken in public life and I will be thinking hard how to help every single one of them.