Budget 2018

31 Oct 18 | Gina Murgatroyd

Billed as a ‘Budget for Britain’s future’, Phil Hammond kicked off yesterday’s Budget with a raft of announcements that has largely been seen as a generous ‘giveaway budget’ that heralds the end of austerity. This has lead commentators to conclude that this was an intensely political budget, with many suggesting that the Chancellor is keeping an eye towards a potential post-Brexit election – already plotting out his strategy to mitigate the threat posed by Labour.

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Billed as a ‘Budget for Britain’s future’, Phil Hammond kicked off yesterday’s Budget with a raft of announcements that has largely been seen as a generous ‘giveaway budget’ that heralds the end of austerity. This has lead commentators to conclude that this was an intensely political budget, with many suggesting that the Chancellor is keeping an eye towards a potential post-Brexit election – already plotting out his strategy to mitigate the threat posed by Labour.

As such there was a marked break from the gloom of recent Budgets, which have primarily centred on tackling the nation’s deficit. Instead there was good news for the NHS, mental health services and those who enjoy a drink – with duties on most alcoholic tipples frozen! Many of the key headlines for Housing and Planning had a similarly positive tone, particularly in terms of the efforts to shore up our struggling high streets, with welcome announcements around business rate relief and added investment into important support funds.

It was confirmed that £675 million would be made available for a Future High Streets Fund as well as intentions to extend residential development above commercial premises. An additional £680 million was made available for the Transforming Cities Fund, taking the fund to £2.9 billion. The TCF has already paid for cycling networks in Greater Manchester, with the new money going towards other sustainable transport projects across the country.

The Housing Infrastructure Fund received an extra £291 million, which is a positive acknowledgement that local authorities and developers cannot always be expected to solve problems alone. Further initiatives were announced aimed at stimulating the construction sector: including guarantees to SME housebuilders, housing associations and a new five-year strategic business plan for Homes England.

This came on the same day that the final report of the Letwin review was published. Continuing the Budget’s emphasis on devolving decision making to local authorities, some of the long-term recommendations included giving local authorities clear powers to designate sites, create master plans, and compulsorily purchase the land designated for such large sites. The ambitious review has been largely well received by the sector, including the RTPI who welcomed the enhanced powers for local authorities and the concept of a National Expert Committee.

On the surface this was a largely positive budget, but it remains to be seen whether this will herald a period of certainty for developers and local authorities in relieving the chronic housing shortage. Ultimately, we will have to wait until next year’s Spending Review to find out if such optimism can be sustained or whether, as some have suggested, this is just a goodie bag of treats to keep people quiet whilst Brexit gets tied up.

Gina Murgatroyd Consultant,Engagement
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