Councillor Joe Harris on the Autumn Statement

Councillor Joe Harris, LGA Liberal Democrat Group Leader, on the Autumn Statement

Jeremy Hunt has just delivered a ticking time bomb to councils and council taxpayers with this Budget, set to go off when new levels of council tax come in next April. He passed the buck for the Government's mismanagement of the economy to councils and in turn our communities just when they’re struggling with the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades. For example, while he has promised more funding for social care, no surprises that what it means is the social care charge paid for in people's council tax bills will go up, as that is where much of the extra funding will come from.

Short term extension of help with energy bills and uplift to benefits, whilst very welcome, will not go anywhere near to make up for the rise in taxes and real-terms eye-watering spending cuts that will impact all public services and everyone who relies on them – from social care to public transport.

People are being asked to pick up the bill for the Conservative party crashing the economy, while oil and gas giants are left off the hook. People here are being forced to suffer unfair tax hikes and cuts to our public services for years to come.

For months the Lib Dems have been calling for a tougher windfall tax on oil and gas giants to help pay for help with energy bills and support for the vulnerable. We will be working with LGA colleagues to look at the real scale of the price paid by our local communities”

On the Government’s U-turn over Investment Zones

Those councils who chose to put in bids for investment zones will be very disappointed after they spent valuable time and resources in preparing them.

Today’s announcement on knowledge-intensive growth clusters highlights a broader challenge around competitive bidding processes, which could lead to unnecessary bureaucracy in Whitehall and create significant extra costs for councils to bid for much-needed funding.

Councils’ ability to pursue these bids varies greatly, with those with greater resources able to make speculative bids. Recent experience of the Community Renewal and Levelling Up Funds, while providing crucial investment, also highlighted difficulties with the process due to delivery, delays and complex bidding criteria.

Public investment in local research institutions such as universities has a positive impact, but this needs to be spread to meet the growth and skills needs of communities across the country beyond Cambridge, Oxford and London.

17 November 2022