Response to March Budget
The chancellor gave his maiden budget statement today. It was a tricky balance between addressing the nation’s concerns over Coronavirus and delivering a budget to fund the government’s manifesto commitments.
There were some interesting developments for CEDOS members and the areas that we serve, though overall there is a clear message that the “levelling up” agenda and particularly the need to raise productivity will be addressed in more detail in the autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review. The CSR will, of course, tackle much wider issues than economic growth. CEDOS -through our strong relationship with civil servants in MHCLG, BEIS, and DWP- will continue to lobby for economic development issues in advance of the CSR.
But what of today’s announcements ?
An increase in research and development spend, and a recognition that the country should invest in innovation, was a strong part of the budget. Innovation is a priority for CEDOS and we will soon be publishing our interactive guide to innovation which will help councils to establish innovation strategies and to explore particular issues relating to innovation in greater depth.
The scale of commitment to infrastructure was notable, with an emphasis on issues that give investors the confidence to invest in a particular area –strategic transport improvements to both road and rail, substantial increases in flood defences, and improvements to the country’s digital infrastructure. CEDOS will be making clean growth a central part of our work over the next year, and this should help members to benefit from the government’s proposed investment in a way which will support the economy and the environment.
People and businesses, though, are at the heart of any economy. Our next CEDOS meeting will be on skills and employment, and the government’s investment in capital for Further Education facilities is particularly welcome as it is our colleges who will provide the skills that businesses require. There were also announcements on increasing the reach of the government’s international trade activities, and on measures to help businesses to address the challenges that Coronavirus presents to them. Certainly my own economic development department has been contacted by businesses needing early assistance, and to be able to work with the local LEP to use these new government initiatives is welcome.
Finally, a brief look ahead…
As stated above, the autumn’s CSR is something that we will need to focus on. The chancellor commented that we will see more detail about the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in CSR, and again CEDOS will be working to advise the government on possible approaches to UK SPF as well as briefing members on the latest developments so that they can be prepared to commence projects as quickly as possible.
Economic growth clearly remains an important priority to the government, and CEDOS look to influence the government’s work on economic growth whilst also helping members to share best practice in order to deliver on that economic growth agenda.