Philip Hammond presented his first and last Autumn Statement this afternoon with an assuredness and strategic bent that has been lacking for several years. Trailed as ‘deadly dull’ beforehand, this statement was anything but, with a clear focus on bringing forward measures that will help business, address the county’s productivity, help to boost housing supply and tackle the infrastructure deficit. Also announced were the first of what I suspect will be a series of significant financial reforms.
Over the next few days we will see how many of the announcements use recycled money in the style so loved of Gordon Brown and to an extent George Osborne but the initial snapshot suggests a respectable escalation of funding directed towards infrastructure and housing with a new focus to alleviate the infrastructure deficit in development hotspots.
Longer term, infrastructure is to increase by up to 50% with a commitment to increase spending from the 0.8% of GDP that is currently spent to something closer to 1 – 1.2% by 2020. Over the next five years an extra £23bn has been found for new infrastructure projects much allocated towards housing and transport schemes.
Mr Hammond made reference to the £3bn announced earlier this autumn for housing and revealed a further £1.4bn to build a further 40,000 affordable homes, £2.3bn for a new Housing Infrastructure Fund to help build 100,000 houses in areas of high growth and £3.15bn targeted to deliver affordable homes in London.
Local Enterprise Partnerships saw significant funding, the precise breakdown will be released shortly but £1.8bn was announced for the English regions with extra funding for Wales, Scotland and N.Ireland.
Business is set to benefit with Corporation Tax set to fall from its current rate of 20% to 17% and business rates are set to be reduced by £6.7bn. Fuel duty has been frozen for a seventh year in a row.
He had a difficult hand but played it with skill and verve, gone were the silly gimmicks so loved by some of his recent predecessors and in their place a laying down of solid measures that seek to prepare the country for the very real challenges ahead.
This article was written by Frank Browne a former leader of Wokingham Borough Council and a member of our non-Executive board.