‘Britain is Walking Taller Again’

By Jon Suckley

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has presented the final Budget of the Coalition Government to the House of Commons. George Osborne’s Budget created a lively atmosphere in the House which required several interruptions from the Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle.

In the Budget, George Osborne said that “Britain is walking tall again” following the recovery of the national economy and that “Britain is working again” with the country reaching its highest rate of employment in history.

Unsurprisingly, the Budget did not contain many new announcements for the North West given the introduction of the Northern Powerhouse in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. Rather there was more re-enforcement of the Northern Powerhouse, the elected Mayor for Greater Manchester and the promotion of technical industries. The key announcements for the North West were:

• The Northern Powerhouse will continue to be built up;

• There is an agreement with Greater Manchester on an elected Mayor who will have devolved powers for health, skills and transport;

• A comprehensive Transport Strategy will be funded for the North;

• Technical industries in the North West will be promoted;

• Funding will be provided for Health North initiatives at the universities and teaching hospitals;

• Provisional agreement has been reached to allow Greater Manchester to keep 100% of the additional growth in local business rates; and

• 8 new enterprise zones were announced including one at Blackpool and the enterprise zones at Mersey Waters and Manchester will be extended.

The Chancellor recognised the need for urgent reform of business rates in the Autumn Statement however the eagerly awaited details of the structural review were not announced in the Budget. The Chancellor did confirm that a provisional agreement has been reached to allow Greater Manchester to keep 100% of the additional growth in local business rates. Whilst it is important that the full details of the structural review of the business rates reform is addressed urgently, the new business rates initiative for Greater Manchester is very welcome and shows that the region is making steps towards addressing the imbalance of business rates between the south and the north.

The budget included the announcement of 8 new enterprise zones. In particular a new enterprise zone will be created at Blackpool, which will deliver important economic benefits for the area. The enterprise zone will support business growth in Blackpool through cheaper business rates, superfast broadband and lower levels of planning control.

The Chancellor confirmed that funding will be provided towards a Transport Strategy for the North and many would have been anticipating that a transport scheme would be announced. The promotion of technical industries in the North is also very welcome as it will allow more digital infrastructure to be created which will stimulate growth in the region and assist with rebalancing the country’s economy.

A new “Help to Buy” ISA for first time buyers was announced which will allow the Government to top up by £50 every £200 saved for a deposit. This is a positive move by the Coalition Government and should increase the access of first time buyers to mortgages. It still however remains the case that there is a significant shortage of housing across the country which requires addressing urgently.

Overall the budget announcements for the North West are positive and are very welcome albeit in the main the detail is yet to be developed. Importantly, the Northern Powerhouse continues to gather momentum which will facilitate economic growth in the region and rebalance the country’s economy.

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Published: 19/03/2015


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