Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, unveiled his latest budget on Wednesday 22nd November 2017.
The underlying position of the United Kingdom economy is weak. This leaves the Chancellor wanting to increase expenditure to stimulate demand at a time when public debt is high, there is already a deficit, productivity is low, ‘Brexit’ is causing ‘uncertainty’ and projected growth in revenues is low.
As expected, housing was the focus of the budget with an additional £44billion for housing investment being announced. However, few details were announced and the objective of building 300,000 new homes a year has been deferred until the 2020s. Furthermore, with increasing constraints on the ability of the private sector to deliver new homes it is possible that increased funding for home ownership schemes will simply inflate house prices further.
There is also a limited scheme under which councils can apply to have the ‘borrowing cap’ raised to enable borrowing to fund new build that starts in 2019/20.
Some additional resources were made available for welfare with £1.5billion allocated to addressing some of the problems that have been identified with Universal Credit. However, no plans were announced to relax the ‘benefits freeze’ despite the increase in inflation.
The additional funding for the National Health Service is modest and falls short of the amount that has been requested by National Health Service managers. There was no mention of funding for adult social care, but this will presumably be addressed in the local government finance settlement that will be announced soon.
The purpose of this briefing paper is to summarise the budget with particular reference to its implications for public services and to provide some commentary. It includes the following sections:
Upon reading the briefing paper a County Councillor emailed me to say:
"Thanks, Adrian: prompt and impressive analysis, as ever."
And a Housing Manager in a London Borough Council emailed me to say:
"Thank you – the Budget paper is very useful."
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