Chancellor Hammond moves London in right direction

New steps towards devolution for London were welcomed by London Chamber of Commerce and Industry following November’s Autumn Statement.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that London will receive £3.15 billion as its share of national housing budget to deliver more than 90,000 homes.

In addition the government will devolve the adult education budget to London and employment services. Equally welcome news came as the government also said it would continue to work with London to explore further devolution of powers over the coming months.

LCCI chief executive Colin Stanbridge said: “Overall there are a lot of encouraging noises and we welcome the moves towards devolution for London in terms of the £3.15 billion housing fund for new homes as well as adult education and employment support services.

“The doubling of UK export finance capacity is also good news for business.

Economic success

“Likewise we welcome investment in infrastructure, in faster broadband and tech research. All these are vital if we are to maintain our competitiveness as a global city and the rest of the country is to benefit from London’s economic success.

“But we all know, as the Chancellor himself acknowledged, that these are uncertain times for businesses and we need further reassurance and more specifics.”

In its October report, London business and Brexit: Reactions, expectations and requirements, LCCI made the recommendation to government it should use set-pieces in the political calendar such commit to investing or progressing strategic London infrastructure projects such as Crossrail 2, airport runways and river crossings.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement also indicates that the government looks forward to receiving the business case for Crossrail 2 – a response welcomed by LCCI.

Autumn views

Many of the opinions expressed about the Chancellor’s approach mentioned that his general lack of drama was a good thing – serious challenges require overtly serious responses.

  • The view from City Hall was that the Autumn Statement signalled “the start of a longterm process of giving London government the control it needs to grow and protect the capital’s economy from the current economic uncertainty.” However Mayor Sadiq Khan voiced his disappointment that the chance was missed to devolve to the capital some control over suburban rail services which he believes would have led to improved services for millions of passengers.
  • The respected London Communications Agency weren’t expecting a great deal for the capital noting the Chancellor’s view that economic growth in the UK had been concentrated for too long in London and the South East. However the agency were relieved that that there was no suggestion of “dragging the capital down” and pointed out that London got “rather more by the back door as a result of the government’s devolution agenda and the national need to address the housing crisis.”
  • Picking up on the boost to export finance, Institute of Export director general Lesley Batchelor said: “This is excellent news as UK exporters need vital support to access overseas markets – especially in these uncertain times. Any government support in winning and fulfilling contracts is greatly welcomed to help equip UK businesses to fulfil international demand.”
  • Adam Marshall, British Chambers of Commerce director general, said that the Chancellor had delivered a “responsible, solid and focused package that will reassure both business and markets. “Increased resources for local and regional transport infrastructure, broadband, housing and innovation will boost business confidence at a critical moment. The Chancellor’s strong focus on the growth requirements of our cities, regions and nations will not go unnoticed in business communities across the UK.”

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