Gordon Brown delayed the general election that never was in October 2007 so that he could set out his ‘vision’. It’s taken 20 months but we are told that today’s paper ‘Building Britain’s Future’ sets out the vision. It will be available from around 15.30 today, following a statement in parliament. I’ll be looking very closely at the paper and blogging on the implications for local government. The two interesting things I know so far, that will be confirmed later: 1. there will be no spending review until after the next election, 2. money is being diverted to fund social housing.
The spending review announcement is probably good news for local government in the short term, but bad news in the long term. It will mean we can have some confidence in the levels of revenue support grant until 2011. After that public finances may fall of a cliff. 10.00 update: Treasury sources are now contradicting Peter Mandelson, saying that a decision on whether or not to hold a spending review before the next election ‘has not been taken’. If Brown sides with Mandelson, who said on Radio 4 this morning that there will not be a spending review, could it be a Nigel Lawson style resigning moment?
The social housing announcement is something I welcome as long as the money is used for permanently affordable models, such as through community land trusts and equity stakes, rather than one off subsidies, as has been the norm over the past decade. The social housing funding is coming from a reduction in Home Office and Transport budgets but I also understand that money has been diverted from other CLG budgets so we need a forensic look at what the implications are for local government finances. The Times is saying the social housing fund is £500 million. This is not going to make a huge difference. The other housing point is a ‘British homes for British workers’ style announcement that councils will have to give priority to local people when allocating housing. This policy, which is aimed at ending what is seen as special treatment of migrant workers, seems like a ‘dog whistle’ response to the BNP