Heather Jameson 03 December 2014

Autumn Statement: Little respite for local government

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, told local government his door was ‘open’ for more devolution as part of the Autumn Statement announced in Parliament today.

He cited the Greater Manchester Combined Authority devolution deal as the frontrunner, and called for others to come forward. However, no further deals were announced today.

He told Parliament: 'Six months ago people would have said it was completely impossible to get the 10 local authorities of Greater Manchester to come together with the government to agree a major devolution of power to the city and the creation of a new directly elected Mayor.

‘We’ve delivered in Manchester and my door is open to other cities who want to follow their cross-party lead.’

Further moves to boost the ‘northern powerhouse’ included extra investment in science and technology and in broadband, as well as a new arts centre in Manchester.

Following the Smith Commission report last week, there were devolution deals for Wales and Northern Ireland in the Autumn Statement too. The Chancellor announced he would look at devolving corporation tax setting powers to Northern Ireland.

A plan for devolution in Wales will be set out in March, with full business rates devolved.

The Chancellor also announced a ‘full review of the structure of business rates’. He pledged to double business rates for another year, and extended the high street discount from £1000 to £1500.

In the penultimate major financial announcement before the General Election next may, Mr Osborne outlined the current financial picture of the country. According to figures from the Office of Budget Responsibility, the deficit is falling and is predicted to hit a £4bn surplice by 2018/19.

In a speech where he pledged to continue to work to keep public spending down, the Chancellor claimed reforms were cushioning the blow of the cuts, as crime was falling and local government satisfaction was up.

There looks to be little respite for local government, with the chancellor pledging to continue to reduce spending, and to keep public sector pay down.

Other measures included:

- An overhaul of stamp duty which would cut tax for the lowest value homes – which is being seen as Mr Osborne’s answer to the mansion tax

- £1.2bn to GPs

- The abolition of job tax on young apprentices will be abolished.

In the days running up to the Autumn Statement, the government revealed some of its plans through big funding announcements.

These included:

- An extra £2bn to be put into the NHS

- Funding for 1,400 flood defence projects with £2.3bn investment – although this is not new money

- Bicester was announced as the second new garden city

- £15bn for roads including a tunnel to go past Stonehenge

- £150m announced by Nick Clegg to help children with eating disorders

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