Responding to the Budget 2021, IPPR North Director Sarah Longlands said:
“We welcome the steps that the government have taken to support business and jobs at this time but there was very little in today’s Budget to help bolster the creaking foundations of the North’s economy such as poor skills, health and child poverty. It particularly neglected to help local government which has been at the forefront of the Covid efforts in towns and cities across the country.
“Ultimately this was a Janus-like Budget. Whilst announcements on moving the Treasury to Darlington and establishing the National Infrastructure Bank in Leeds give the pretence of a government that cares about the regions and levelling up, ultimately, powers and resources remain highly centralised.
“Recovery in the North will take longer and so what we needed today was long term, comprehensive investment plan for recovery. What we got doesn’t feel like a genuine attempt to ‘level up’ but a short-term package of measures to win votes ahead of elections in May”.
On home ownership, Senior Research Fellow Jonathan Webb said:
“For young people right across the country, owning their own home is an increasingly distant prospect and the chancellor’s announcement today will do little to change this. 95 per cent LTV mortgages are nothing new and higher value mortgages risk saddling buyers with even more debt. England’s broken housing market has priced too many people across the country out of accessing a home of their own, including in the North. In Greater Manchester for example, house prices have increased 35 per cent in the past 5 years. Even with access to more capital, aspirational buyers simply cannot save at the required rate to buy a home.
“To ensure we have enough homes that everyone can afford, the government needs to fix the root causes of England’s broken housing market. This requires reform of the planning system and building more genuinely affordable homes, including social rented housing. Building these homes will not only create more jobs; it will also give people affordable housing options when it comes to renting or buying. This would ensure that everyone can afford to live in and contribute to our great cities, towns and villages, regardless of age or income.”
On support for high streets, Senior Research Fellow Jonathan Webb said:
“Today’s announcements will provide some relief for high street businesses. However, the support offered falls short of a long-term plan to revive our high streets and there is a serious risk that many retailers, arts venues and hospitality businesses might go under before they have a chance to get back on their feet. IPPR’s recent analysis has shown that more than half a million employers are already at risk of bankruptcy. Many of these will be located on our high streets. Alongside this, high streets have been facing long standing pressures including rising business rates and competition from online retailers. A long-term plan is needed to support a new and ambitious role for high streets in the years to come.
“Business rates are no longer fit for purpose and today was a missed opportunity to outline much needed reforms. Combined and local authorities must also be given more powers and resources to plan and shape the future of our high streets. They can work with retailers, hospitality and the arts sector to drive the renewal of our cities and towns”.
On the announcement that Treasury North will be based in Darlington, Research Fellow Marcus Johns said:
“This economic campus is a welcome announcement. It will have a local economic impact and, with the right employment strategy, could provide opportunities to local people over time. We welcome the recognition that policy development should be informed by the experiences of people living across the UK, not just the corridors of Whitehall.
“But, levelling up cannot be achieved through moving civil servants out of London alone. It does not undo jobs lost through austerity and it is not a replacement for devolution. This proposal would have been stronger if it accompanied a real commitment to English devolution and clarity on how this northern economic campus would facilitate devolution. Central government needs to let go of power—devolving it and resources to drive change, so that local communities across the country can drive their own prosperity”.
On infrastructure and the announcement that the UK Infrastructure Bank will be opened in Leeds, Research Fellow Marcus Johns said:
“This Budget was an opportunity for the Chancellor to start delivering this Government’s longstanding promises of an infrastructure revolution. But we are still none the wiser about what will be delivered when. The National Infrastructure Strategy, published four months ago, should have been a catalyst for change, but it needed the Chancellor to take it forward and he has neglected to do so.
“After decades of underinvestment in our transport infrastructure, the North needed this Budget to finally commit to turning a corner. But, with the news of a 40 per cent budget cut to Transport for the North this year, and little to signal national government’s commitment to Northern transport today— it is fair to say the North’s patience with central government has more than worn thin.
“The announcement of a Leeds-based UK Infrastructure Bank to invest in green infrastructure and levelling up is good news. Specific access for local authorities is very welcome too. But, new investment here with cuts to transport elsewhere demonstrates a lack of strategic infrastructure planning”.
On the newly announced freeports, Research Fellow Marcus Johns said:
“Instead of pursuing a bold transformative economic agenda to level up, the Chancellor has opted to create eight freeports in England, including three in the North. Levelling down regulations, creating new loopholes for tax dodging, and promoting low-wage competition will not level up the North. The evidence suggests that freeports displace activity, at cost, rather than create new opportunities. This is not what is needed to provide a post-pandemic economic recovery. We needed to see a commitment long-term investment in people—in skills, training, and health—and devolved economic resources so that local places can target economic support. Today’s opportunity for our region to see broad economic prosperity in the recovery and beyond has been missed.”
On cash for levelling up, Researcher Amreen Qureshi said:
“The levelling up fund will not empower local communities, and it does not scale up to the challenges we have before us.
“Investment to level up should not involve bidding wars for insufficient pots of money. The North’s economy will thrive when all parts of the North are thriving, with a strategy that plays to their strengths, not playing them off against each other.
“Levelling up should not be dictated from Westminster, where the purse strings are held tight and decision making is centralised. Funding to regions needs to strengthen local communities to emerge from this crisis safer than when we went into it”.