Spring Statement 2019: housing boost for west London
In what was a downbeat Spring Statement overshadowed by Brexit uncertainty, the chancellor pledged funds for housing in west London, but more cash for the Met to fight knife crime in the capital seen as a ‘drop in the ocean’.
When Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond stood up to deliver his Spring Statement, it was a speech that was sandwiched between ongoing Brexit debates, votes on which had failed to break the deadlock at Westminster.
It was the ongoing turmoil in parliament that prompted London First, the capital’s business lobby group, to use the Spring Statement to renew its call to revoke Article 50. Jasmine Whitbread, London First’s chief executive, said: ‘We need to stop the clock on Brexit and give parliament the time it needs to reach a consensus on the way forward. If it can’t, then the decision must go back to the people."
London First did, however, welcome the chancellor’s funding commitment for housing, which will see Old Oak Common in west London benefit from part of a £717m package out of the £5.5bn Housing Infrastructure Fund. However, Whitbread said: ‘The housing crisis can only be solved by a combination of more money, more land and better ways of building, which means the government, the [London] mayor and industry must now come together to crack this complex puzzle.’
The lobby group also called for Crossrail 2 to be given the green light.
The chancellor confirmed that the Met Police will receive a share of £100m to be invested in policing nationally this year to help tackle knife crime. The Met will be able to use this funding to pay for overtime for existing officers, but it was unclear how much of the £100m would come to London.
The Mayor of London Saddiq Kahn warned it was ‘a drop in the ocean’ compared to government cuts to the police and preventative services since 2010. He has also called on the government to confirm that London will get a proportionate share of this new money.
ICAEW chief executive Michael Izza, writing on his Moorgate Place blog, said: ‘Sandwiched between Brexit votes with fundamental implications for the UK economy, [the] Spring Statement was thoroughly overshadowed. The chancellor kept to his plan and resisted the temptation to announce any major tax or spending changes, nor were there any new ideas – perhaps understandable given all of the Treasury’s resources and focus have been elsewhere.
‘The chancellor held fire on the long-awaited easing of austerity – instead using the improvement in public finances as an opportunity to open the chequebook later in the Autumn Budget, if and when we have more clarity on Brexit.
Izza also commented on the new requirement for audit committees to review their payment practices and report on them in their annual reports in an effort to clamp down on late payments to small businesses. ‘This is a positive step for public accountability, but also yet another increase in the already-heavy list of responsibilities placed upon audit committees,’ he said.
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