THIS is the time of year when children post letters to Santa Claus and parents hope the wish list doesn’t bust the family budget. 

The same goes for people bombarding the Chancellor with requests to pull out a treat from his red box tomorrow lunchtime. 

It is to be expected that Philip Hammond stopped believing in Father Christmas some time ago but to hear at the weekend that he doesn’t believe there are such things as unemployed people came as a shock. A quick visit to a Job Centre next time he visits the North-East will show how out of touch he is with the challenges faced by many people. 

The Chancellor has hinted that he is eager to end the age of austerity and kick-start Britain’s flatlining economy. Most analysts believe the scale of his Budget giveaways will be relatively modest, but that hasn’t stopped the Tees Valley mayor from making a late bid for £100m. Ben Houchen’s request created local and national headlines. 

Its timing was interesting. One would have thought that by now Mr Hammond had all but decided where his money was going and a late attempt to secure such a large pot of cash would miss the boat. 

Alternatively, if the Chancellor snubs the region it would put Tees Valley’s Conservative mayor at loggerheads with a Government he had publicly embarrassed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - a regional mayor’s priority should be to fight for local people rather than slavishly follow the party political line.   

But if the Chancellor does announce a £100m windfall for Tees Valley then it might make a suspicious person wonder if the mayor had been tipped-off in advance and his bid for regeneration cash was PR posturing aimed at winning a few brownie points for himself and the Government. 

Is Mr Houchen asking for a gift which he already knows is coming his way?