On Wednesday afternoon, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt revealed his Spring Budget for 2023 with significant funding news for sustainability, levelling up, and devolution.
With significant funding being invested into ‘sustainable economic growth’ over the long-term, the chancellor stated that the “plan is working – inflation falling, debt down and a growing economy.” With several announcements affecting local government, here is a run-down of some of the policies.
Devolution and levelling up
The government’s mission to level up the United Kingdom is one of the most important issues in local government and public sector at the moment. As part of this, local governments around the country are entering into agreements with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to devolve power to the people who understand where key decisions are being made and where local investment is directed.
As part of Wednesday’s Budget, Jeremy Hunt announced that ‘trailblazing’ new deals have been reached for the West Midlands and Greater Manchester Combined Authorities. This announcement also included a commitment to the negotiation of further devolution deals around England.
Investment zones are another way that the government is looking to drive economic growth in specific areas of the country. Through the Budget, the Chancellor announced that there are to be 12 new Investment Zones, including four across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The main way that levelling up is being implemented around the United Kingdom is through the government’s Levelling Up Fund. The middle to end of 2022 saw the second round of levelling up funding being allocated to local authorities around the country and now, the Chancellor has announced the third round of the fund. This will provide more than £200 million for local governments to undertake “high-quality local regeneration projects” in areas that need it the most, as well as new Levelling Up Partnerships in twenty areas around the country that are struggling. The £400 million allocated for the Levelling Up Partnerships will compliment other levelling up work that has gone before, in areas such as Rochdale, Mansfield and Boston.
Alongside the third round of the Levelling Up Fund, more than £8.8 billion is being invested in the second round of the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements. This will be implemented over the next five years, with the first round seeing projects such as new bus corridors, improved railway stations, and work to upgrade infrastructure such as the Manchester Street Viaduct in Oldham.
Speaking about the local investment in his speech to parliament, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, said “working together with our formidable Levelling Up Secretary, I also want to give some further support to levelling up areas under the ‘E’ of everywhere.” whilst also touching on the importance of local leadership, by saying “But Madam Deputy Speaker, for levelling up to truly succeed we need to unleash the civic entrepreneurship that is only possible when elected local leaders are able to fund and deliver solutions to their own challenges.
That means giving them responsibility for local economic growth and the benefit from the upside when it happens.”
Communities are set to benefit further from the Budget, with funding being allocated for improvements in everything from potholes to pools. This funding will
More than £60 million is being invested in ensuring that community leisure centres and swimming pools are able to deal with rising costs, as well making their facilities more energy efficient. Alongside this, more than £100 million is to be allocated to local charities and community organisations.
Road infrastructure is to be improved also, with £200 million worth of funding being given to local authorities as they look to improve roads and repair potholes.