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While the Budget was trailed as being a response to Corona virus, the chancellor still made time in his hour-long speech to announce a number of policies to help the Government’s levelling up agenda.
West Yorkshire (finally) gets its devolution deal
After years of wrangling over geographies and the merits of a Yorkshire wide deal, it was finally confirmed that West Yorkshire will get a mayoral devolution deal. We’ve long called for this to happen, and now look forward to the area benefiting from being able to shape economic policy to address its challenges and take advantage of its opportunities. The new mayor will be elected in May next year.
Extra funding for existing mayors
Once again those places already with a mayor were given extra powers in a budget. This further underlined the importance of West Yorkshire joining the club.
The most significant this time was the announcement of levelling up of transport capital investment to fall more in line with London. From 2022 they will share £4.2 billion over five years, providing both greater funding and certainty, which should help investment decisions.
But there was also the announcement of a £400 million fund to help bring forward development on brownfield land. This very much aligns with work we are due to publish on housing development in suburbs in the next fortnight.
More money to universities for R&D outside of the South East
The Chancellor put a lot of emphasis on his commitment to increase R&D spending, and to increase the amount of this that is spent outside the ‘golden triangle’ between London, Oxford and Cambridge. The focus on innovation is welcome – it is the driver of economic prosperity in the long term.
To do this the Chancellor committed £400 million to research institutes and universities, with ‘ with much of that funding going to brilliant universities around the country’. But it isn’t clear how this will translate into more innovation in the private sector in places. Conversations around innovation across the county seem to immediately default to more spending for universities. But work we have done with Future Places Catapult shows this doesn’t automatically translate into stronger local economic performance. More serious thinking is required in time for the Spending Review if policy really is going to support innovation across the country.
Public sector relocations
Economic decision making is going to be spread outside SW1. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will get Treasury offices, and there will be the creation of an ‘economic decision making’ campus with 750 jobs in the north of England too.
This may be a good thing to do to get broader perspectives into the decision making process. But Centre for Cities’ work shows that we should limit our expectations about the impact this is likely to have in the new places the Treasury calls home. To make the most of this limited impact, it should go to a city which has reasonable scale and a large number of skilled workers. Manchester and Leeds are good candidates.
A further 22,000 civil service jobs will also be moved out of central London over the next decade. It’s not clear though what these roles will be and where they will go.
FE colleges get more capital funding, but there was little extra for day-to-day spending
Further education colleges both saw the lowest increases in funding in the 2000s and the largest cuts to funding post 2010 of any area of education. So the £1.5 billion announcement on capital spending will be no doubt welcome, especially given the cost of equipment for vocational courses in particular. This won’t do a great deal for day-to-day spending to help provide courses though, so the Budget hasn’t done a great deal to expand provision – something that is greatly needed in struggling cities and towns in particular.
There’s also the commitment of £5 million to the development of economic statistics. This might not be very exciting to most, but it’s incredibly important if we are to better understand the economy, especially at the local level. We look forward to this building on the great work the ONS has done and has underway on sub-national statistics.
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