Tiffany Cloynes 27 November 2015

Driving the devolution revolution

George Osborne has announced that the Government would deliver a 'devolution revolution by returning power to the UK’s nations, cities and councils'.

This would be achieved through 'rebalancing our economy, giving people greater control' by:

• Enabling local government to be 'self-sufficient' by the end of the Parliament by paving the way for 100% business rates retention by 2020
• Giving councils the power to cut business rates to boost growth
• Further empowering elected city wide mayors – ability to impose an infrastructure levy of 2p on business rates if companies agree
• Enabling councils to retain 100% of receipts (excluding right to buy receipts) from the sale of assets subject to conditions to be announced in December
• Allowing councils to increase taxes by 2% to pay for rising social care costs
• Significant transport powers devolving to Greater Manchester and the City Regions
• Publishing new guidance for best practice on property disposals by Budget 2016
• 18 new Enterprise Zones and extending three others
£12bn Local Grant Funding to replace the regional growth fund

However this is to be balanced against the loss of £18bn grant across councils in England.

The shift from grant support to the generation of revenue from rates from the private sector and the sale of assets is a fundamental shift predicated on the willingness of the private sector to invest which, particularly in the poorest areas, presents an even greater challenge.

Notwithstanding this, Mr Osborne claimed to be making the biggest effort in 50 years to close the North-South divide including £150m for oyster style ticketing, £15m to support trade missions and £5m for the Midlands.

Osborne positions Government as builders

The shrinking of the state and a greater role of the private sector is seen very clearly in the government’s announcements on housing.

Linking home ownership with the aspirations of working people, the chancellor made a number of key announcements regarding housing, some new, some not so new.

Attempting to address problems in supply, a new target of 400,000 new homes by 2020 has been set, backed-up by a doubling of the housing budget available to private developers to over £2bn a year. Osborne hailed this as part of the biggest government house-building programme since the 1970s, with half ear-marked for young first time buyers who will enjoy 20% off market value. Increased building activity might have positive impacts on levels of employment and numbers of apprenticeships within the construction sector and more widely.

Any Government target for new homes is susceptible to change and it remains to be seen how the blockages which have proved so resilient for many years will be removed in this Parliament.

A few pointers were given by the chancellor but will further reforms to the planning system, the re-designation of unused commercial land and the release of more former public sector land be enough to boost supply?

Existing initiatives/programmes involving the sale of publicly-owned land – such as One Public Estate – are supplemented by further announcements regarding the sale of former prisons to create more space for new housing and releasing enough public land for 160,000 homes. Good progress has been made since 2010 in identifying surplus land and selling it off for housing or to boost economic growth. Now is the time to build on this and quicken the pace.

Buy-to-letters and second home owners were singled out for Government attention. Stamp Duty Land Tax changes to take effect from April next year, will mean new higher rates of tax will be levied – a hike of 3% on normal rates. This is a very significant announcement and implementation will require careful consultation with the sector. Critics are already suggesting that this might have a chilling effect on the market, as it might reduce the supply of much needed housing for rent and might adversely impact on tenants as landlords seek to offset these costs.

A pilot will allow tenants of five housing associations to begin the process of acquiring their own property. This builds on the extension of the Right to Buy for social tenants announced in the Conservative manifesto earlier this year. Further announcements will be made but we know that the five housing associations are L&Q, Riverside, Saffron, Sovereign and Thames Valley.

Tiffany Cloynes is head of public services (England) at Geldards LLP

SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Teacher of the Deaf

City of Bradford MDC
Band/Grade MPS / UPS + 1 or 2 SEN
We are seeking to recruit a creative, innovative and experienced Teacher of the Deaf to work in the Support Team for Deaf Children. Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of Bradford MDC

Registration Officer

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£26,481 -£37,677
Do you want a fast-paced and varied role? Would you like to help people through some of the most important moments of their lives? Wandsworth, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Head of Service – Adults Services South, Safeguarding & DoLS

Bolton Council
£51,772
It is an exciting time to join us as Head of Service for Safeguarding, DoLS and South District. Bolton, Greater Manchester
Recuriter: Bolton Council

Apprenticeship

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£28,470 - £44,628
Kick-start your career with an apprenticeship based in Royal Borough of Greenwich. Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Social Worker – Enhanced Social Care Support In Reach

Essex County Council
£32,787 to £44,826
We currently have an opportunity for a Social Worker to join our Countywide Enhanced Support In Reach Team. Essex / Countywide
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Partner Content

Circular highways is a necessity not an aspiration – and it’s within our grasp

Shell is helping power the journey towards a circular paving industry with Shell Bitumen LT R, a new product for roads that uses plastics destined for landfill as part of the additives to make the bitumen.

Support from Effective Energy Group for Local Authorities to Deliver £430m Sustainable Warmth Funded Energy Efficiency Projects

Effective Energy Group is now offering its support to the 40 Local Authorities who have received a share of the £430m to deliver their projects on the ground by surveying properties and installing measures.

Pay.UK – the next step in Bacs’ evolution

Dougie Belmore explains how one of the main interfaces between you and Bacs is about to change.