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24/11/2016

Autumn Statement: Industry reacts to city deals and regional support

Words: Simon Wicks

Industry bodies and politicians have reacted positively to Autumn Statement commitments to cities and regions, but hinted that they would like to see more to come.

Among the measures Chancellor Philip Hammond outlined for cities and regions in the Statement were:

Local infrastructure

  • £1.8 billion to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across England through a third round of Growth Deals
  • New borrowing powers for Metro mayors to invest in economically productive infrastructure, subject to a cap agreed with the Treasury

English devolution

  • A second devolution deal for the West Midlands
  • Talks on future transport funding with Greater Manchester
  • Budget for Work and Health programme transferred to London and Greater Manchester
  • £3.15 billion affordable housing settlement for Greater London Authority to deliver 90,000 housing starts by 2020/21

Regional productivity

England

  • Midlands Engine strategy due
  • Confirmation of arrangements for Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and Midlands Engine Investment Fund, starting in early 2017

Scotland

  • Stirling city deal offered
  • Confirmed funding for city deals in Aberdeen and Inverness
  • Progress towards a deal with Edinburgh
  • Proposals for a deal with the Tay cities to be considered once brought forward

Wales

  • Progress in discussions on a city deal for the Swansea Bay City Region
  • Growth deal for North Wales to be considered
  • Continued support for £1.2 billion city deal for the Cardiff Capital Region

Northern Ireland

  • Continued working towards introduction of a Northern Ireland rate of Corporation Tax

Reaction - Devolution

 

RTPI chief executive Trudi Elliott welcomed the continued emphasis on regional devolution, saying more local decision-making and co-ordination would be needed if the UK is to meet its housing requirements.

“Devolution plays a key role in incentivising a whole wider range of issues within planning and development,” she said. “The announcements today that give greater incentives for city regions and counties to cooperate in meeting housing need across their areas, as well as additional support for LEPs to help unlock more housing, are in the right direction and need to be rolled out across more areas.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan saw the commitments from the Chancellor as positive “first steps towards a major devolution deal for the capital” which would give London “the control it needs to grow and protect the capital’s economy from the current economic uncertainty”.

Noting that the £3.15 billion for affordable housing was the largest sum ever secured by City Hall for this aim, he also welcomed a relaxation of rules about how this money can be spent. The result, said Khan, would be a focus on new-build homes for low-cost rent and shared ownership between now and 2021.

“Today marks the first step in our journey to give the capital a greater voice so we can protect jobs, wealth and prosperity and provide an extra incentive for economic growth,” he said.

“We can get on with the hard slog of building new genuinely affordable homes, but it won’t happen overnight – fixing the housing crisis will be a marathon and not a sprint.”

Khan finished by calling for more action on devolution of control of suburban rail services to London.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of the think tank Centre for Cities also welcomed the “government’s continuing commitment to devolution in major UK cities”, noting in particular the additional borrowing powers for Metro mayors which could help to unlock housing in areas of greatest demand.

“However”, she continued, “what was missing from today’s statement was a commitment to addressing skills gaps in cities across the North and Midlands, which will be the single most important factor in boosting economic growth and productivity in many places.

“This should be a top priority in the Government’s new industrial strategy, alongside further devolution of powers over economic development to the new mayors.”

Reaction – Scotland

 

Stirling council’s leader Johanna Boyd said the proposed city deal for Stirling was “fantastic news”. Such a deal would, she said, be “transformational for Stirling and its surrounding areas.

Noting that work on the bid had been going on for 18 months, she listed the key projects that the deal would support, including a digital district, a new harbour quarter and a city park.

“Our ambitions also go way beyond infrastructure to focus on improving the prospects and quality of life for all our people, through developments in skills and employability, social innovation, housing, transport and energy,” she said.

Gail Hunter, director of RICS in Scotland, welcomed the announcement of more city deals for Scotland. But she focused on the additional £800 million for Scotland to come from the National Productivity Investment Fund over the next five years.

“It is vital that this money must be put into infrastructure projects that return the highest economic and social impact, whilst stimulating the Scottish construction industry,” she said.

She also noted that Scotland would receive £100m of the government’s £1.4 billion commitment to affordable housing. “We encourage the Scottish Government to utilise this money to further increase their commitment to building 50,000 new, affordable homes,” she said. “In addition, the Scottish Government should use this opportunity to increase supply by investing in raising the standard of existing housing stock.”

Image | iStock

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