There were no huge surprises in a budget with limited room for manoeuvre, writes Jonathan Carr-West.
The big news for local government was around housing, business rates and a couple of new Mayors
The Government is looking to take action to address the housing crisis at the source – with councils who have been dealing with this crisis on the ground. Announcements on the HRA borrowing cap will be welcomed alongside firm commitments on infrastructure.
A commitment to business rates retention in London will be welcome news for councils in the capital but we are still no nearer to understanding how local government finance as a whole will work post 2020 (though we are of course a lot closer to 2020!) as I argued last week, it doesn’t feel like part of a coherent programme. We have pilots more and more of them but we don’t actually have a policy which is being piloted. As I argued last week, it feels more like a free for all than a coherent programme of government.
Similarly, it’s good to see progress towards Mayors in Sheffield and the North East – though the politics of both are contested. But again there’s little sense of how this fits into a bigger plan for devolution especially for areas outside the major cities.
So it all feels a bit piece meal. It’s inevitable perhaps, in a government so focused on Brexit, that the domestic agenda can feel something of an afterthought.