Julian’s York Press Column: Autumn Budget
December 1, 2017
The decision taken by George Osborne in 2010 to have a second Budget was a notable moment and the first time such an occurrence had happened since 1979. Since then we have had two Budgets in 2015 and then two again this year.
The reason for our double helping is a result of the Chancellor’s decision to revert to an Autumn Budget. It makes sense for the Budget to be moved back to November; this will allow more time to prepare for forthcoming tax changes and thorough consultation.
I was pleased to see the Chancellor announce a substantial increase in funding for our National Health Service. The happy fact that we are all living so much longer has led to rapidly rising demand for health services, and I was glad to see £6.3bn of new money for the NHS to assist it in coping with these pressures.
Our health service is symbolic of our shared commitment to care for one another as a community, and for this reason it is vital to both provide for everyday healthcare needs and invest in the physical infrastructure of buildings and facilities, so the NHS is ready for the demands of the future.
I was reassured by the fact that this new money will be split into funding for the general provision of appointment and operations, as well as investment in NHS facilities. We will all benefit from an immediate cash injection into frontline services over the next three years, with £335m being provided this year to help the NHS increase capacity over the winter months, and an additional £1.6bn following in 2018-19. Alongside this, there will be serious capital investment to upgrade our hospitals and other local facilities.
A crucial way of enhancing our national prosperity and productivity so that we can better support services like the NHS is through increasing what our country spends on the research and development of new products and technologies. Although less of a headline-grabber, this was why the Chancellor’s announcement of £2.3bn more for R&D was so welcome. Investment in this area by the private and public sectors is where future growth and the high-skill, high-wage jobs we all want to see more of are going to come from, a welcome example of which was yesterday’s news that German and American firms are going to put more than £1bn into UK life-sciences and create nearly 1000 jobs.
A number of measures were announced to help tackle challenges in the housing market, including over £15bn of new financial support being made available for housebuilding over the next five years. Furthermore, the Chancellor was clear that housing focus will be on urban areas and crucially to continue the strong protection of our greenbelt. As an MP representing a greenbelt constituency this was reassuring and I look forward to scrutinising future proposals in this area.
The Transforming Cities Fund will invest almost £1.7bn to improve local transport and tackle congestion. Half of these funds have been allocated directly to those areas with elected metro-mayors and the other half will be open to bids from local authorities. This is deeply frustrating and represents why York and the area are being left behind as a result of not securing a devolution deal.
Greater Manchester has been given £243m and the West Midlands £250m. The financial rewards reflect the populations of devolved areas and if we could secure a Greater Yorkshire deal comprising North, West and East Yorkshire this would be an authority comprising roughly 4 million people. Rather than York having to bid for a share of £850m against all other local authorities, a Greater Yorkshire would have likely attracted upwards of £320m.
There has always been a strong willingness to secure an appropriate deal in York, and delays and holdups have mostly been generated in West Yorkshire. More recently, Doncaster and Barnsley have expressed an intention to join the Greater Yorkshire project but they have already made a commitment to joining the Sheffield City region where elections are to be held in May. This devolution hokey-cokey cannot hold us back any further; what we are missing out on is now very clear.