Acting Chief Executive Andrew Carter responds to today's Autumn Statement by George Osborne.
The Centre for Cities had high hopes for the Autumn Statement, given the Chancellor’s declared intention to put his ambitions for building a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ at its heart. We asked for commitments around three key areas:
To these ends, it was most encouraging to see the Chancellor announce a major suite of infrastructure projects, including 80 new road schemes, and to see a commitment today towards upgrades to the rail connections between Manchester and Leeds. It is absolutely correct for the Government to focus on improving connectivity within and between cities in the UK – particularly in the North of England – where linking labour markets and providing greater opportunities for firms to collaborate and exchange ideas will provide significant benefits to businesses and workers alike.
We also welcome the Chancellor’s announcements around the Government’s support for small and medium-sized businesses – a core driver of city economies – and for entrepreneurialism, science, creative industries, research and development, particularly in Northern cities – given these industries contribute so strongly to productivity, output, and international trade, and tend to provide the kinds of high-quality, high-paying jobs that must drive Britain’s future employment.
We will look forward to the Government extending its recent deal with Manchester, to provide greater powers and control to other major cities and city-regions. But structural devolution without fiscal devolution is simply not going to enable cities to make the difference they need to kick-start the growth of their local economies, and deliver higher standards of living for their communities.
The most disappointing omission against our key asks was the lack of concrete proposals to tackle the UK’s escalating housing crisis, on a scale that will deliver the number of new homes we need, where they are needed, for both the short- and long-term. The ‘big ticket’ announcements around stamp duty once again focus on the demand for housing, when we know it is the supply of housing that needs most urgent attention.
All in all, the Chancellor’s words today suggested he understands that the ‘steady as she goes’ approach of the past will simply not deliver the urgent action we need to take to empower and enable our cities outside of the South of England to contribute more strongly to the economy. It’s time now for all parties to rise to the challenge that looms so large ahead of us and extend their ambitions to real commitments for action, with clear timeframes for implementation in the next Parliamentary term.
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Press and External Affairs Officer