Our on-the-day briefing highlights the main announcements and their impact on local government.
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- It is encouraging that today’s Budget signals a shift towards more spending on local priorities, with significant and welcome investment in infrastructure and public services. With local control over how this new funding is spent, councils can play a key role in providing affordable homes, fixing the nation’s roads, delivering high-speed broadband and high-quality mobile connectivity, boosting local economies, and tackling environmental challenges.
- Councils are working hard in hugely challenging circumstances to help communities cope with Coronavirus and will continue to prepare for every eventuality. The announcement of £500 million in hardship funding for individuals, and support to businesses – including business rates relief measures and a £2.2 billion grant fund – to be distributed by local authorities, is good news. Councils will need maximum flexibility to ensure funding can be distributed as quickly as possible and where there is most need. Local government needs the same commitment as the NHS to receive immediate financial support to help adult social care services. This will help keep vulnerable residents safe and reduce pressure on the NHS.
- Business rates account for around a quarter of all council spending power and money raised is used to pay for vital local services. Councils agree the system needs to be modernised and improved and we will engage with the Government’s review. This is an opportunity to ensure online businesses make a fair contribution, tackle business rates avoidance, reduce the risk of appeals on councils and provide local government with a sustainable income stream. Urgent clarity is needed on how this review will impact on reforms that will allow local government to keep more of business rates income collected locally from next year.
- The recent flooding incidents have highlighted the increasing need for investment in flood defences. It is welcome that the Government is making £120 million available to repair assets damaging in the storms. The Government has recognised the need to substantially increase the amount of funding available for the flood and coastal defence programme in England to £5.2 billion over six years. It will be important that councils are integral to how this spending is prioritised.