Chancellor George Osborne is under pressure to put devolution ‘at the heart’ of his final Autumn Statement of this parliament.
In what is expected to be a highly politicised Autumn Statement ahead of next year’s General Election, the chancellor is expected by some to announce an overhaul of stamp duty to help those buying cheaper properties to pay less, alongside a review of business rates for high street shops.
Local leaders have urged Osborne to speed up the sharing of power to regions outside of Government in Westminster. Measures to support the creation of Osborne’s northern powerhouse are also anticipated, with the Local Government Association (LGA) calling for growth funding to be devolved to a local level and greater financial freedom for local authorities.
LGA Chair Cllr David Sparks said: ‘The Treasury needs to act now to get the wheels of devolution turning for the next government. Only this can secure a sustainable future for local government, spark locally-led economic growth and give people a real say over local services.’
An extra £2bn for frontline health services has already been announced by the chancellor, who stated the commitment could be made due to the strength of the economy.
Osborne is expected to deliver further details on the country’s national infrastructure plan, after news this week that 1,400 flood defence schemes had been chosen to share £2.3bn of Government cash. Announcements have also been trailed this week on a £15bn investment plan for the country’s roads.
The garden cities agenda has gained momentum this week after significant government interest in March’s Budget, with a new town with 13,000 homes announced in Bicester, Oxfordshire, this week. More information is likely to be delivered on housing delivery, after new targets were revealed for affordable residences up to 2020 late last night.
Osborne began the day by announcing the Government would be paying off the country’s First World War debts, redeeming the outstanding £1.9bn of debt from war loans early next year.
However he is also likely to be forced to concede that the Government has failed on its pledge to eliminate the underlying deficit by 2014/15. The chancellor is expected to admit net borrowing for the year could exceed predictions, reaching around £90bn.