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Budget: local government must take a leadership role
In the first Conservative budget for 18 years, the Chancellor clearly reiterated his commitment to devolution. While we didn’t really learn anything new, the announcement of the first county deal with Cornwall will increase a sense of urgency for non metropolitan areas to get their proposals in to the government before they get landed with someone else’s versions of devolution.
The budget set out £17 bn of savings and deferred announcements on another £20 bn to the autumn’s spending review. For local government that’s when most of the specific announcements will come, but that’s not to say there was nothing consequential in the Chancellor’s announcements today.
Changes to welfare and housing will have huge consequences for local government which will have to find efficiencies to replace lost social housing rents and to ensure that welfare changes do not simply create more emergency demand in other parts of the system.
Some will see this as the government irresponsibly passing on difficult decisions to councils, others will see it as the flip side of devolution: the responsibility that comes with power.
That’s a debate that probably can’t be resolved, but what is clear is that the need for local government’s strategic leadership role is more crucial than ever if we are to move to the “lower tax, higher wage, lower welfare” society the government aspires to.
See here for our Budget Briefing.
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