In his second budget, and the final Spring budget scheduled to be delivered, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond addressed the house and highlighted that growth had been revised upwards from 1.6% to 2.0% for 2017 and that the UK was now the fastest growing nation in the G7 group. In terms of other key points, borrowing is falling lower than forecast and, whilst the national debt has risen, it is still predicted to fall in 2017.
In terms of fiscal measures, the following is a summary of the key announcements:
- £350m funding to the Scottish Government.
- £200m to the Welsh Government.
- £120m to the Northern Irish Executive.
- The Government is in discussions with Greater Manchester on the detail of future transport funding.
- A growth strategy for the Midlands Engine will be published imminently.
PLANNING AND INFRASTRUCTURE
- £690m announced to tackle urban congestion, which would be competitively allocated.
- Regional allocations of £90m in funding to the North and £23m for the Midlands to address “strategic pinch points” on the network.
- £216m in funding for repairs and improvements to school buildings.
- £200m investment in full fibre broadband networks.
- £16m investment in 5G technology.
The final Spring budget seemed somewhat “light” in terms of the number of headline points and overall length – indeed the red book which accompanies the Chancellor’s speech was 68 pages in length compared with 148 last year. With regards to planning matters, the budget was light - with much of the announcements centred on healthcare and education.
Following the Chancellor’s announcements, the opposition took to the stand and highlighted that issues revolving around social housing had not been addressed, noting that the delivery of social housing was at its lowest level for 25 years.
There were also questions raised about the receipts received from the ‘right to buy’ scheme, which the opposition totalled as £800m and could deliver approximately 12,000 homes. Questions were also raised about investment being unevenly spread, with the opposition noting that investment spending in the Capital region was more than six times higher than in the North East of England. This appeared to cast a shadow over the Chancellor’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse, spearheaded by his predecessor, and the Midlands Engine.
The lack of planning and housing related matters might not seem much of a surprise given the raft of measures announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement, the announcement of the Housing White Paper and the immense public and political pressure to address on health and social care issues. The Chancellor set out that this would be the final Spring Budget, therefore we will await what the Autumn Statement 2017 may bring.