This Budget was promoted by the Chancellor as 'the' Budget to support world class public services and Levelling Up: a Budget for the whole of the UK, for people and communities, "one family, one United Kingdom". Given what one might term the 'public purpose' of the announcements, it's no surprise that the recently re-named Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) is to receive a larger percentage increase in funding than any other government department. This is good news for local government.
Public sector net investment is expected to be at a higher level than seen in 50 years. This Budget provides a multi-year settlement, an estimated average increase in real terms of 3% a year in core spending power. This reportedly equates to an increase of £8.5bn over the spending review period, with more than half of this coming from an additional £4.8bn in grant funding and much of the remainder from council tax increases. As the Chief Executive of the Local Government Information Unit, Dr. Jonathan Carr-West, has pointed out, this will require Councils to take a political risk.
This is a Budget that identifies significant investment in 'big ticket' levelling up, in road and rail, whilst at the same time restating old promises (including the 40 'new' hospitals mantra). It also addresses controversial themes head on, including the provision of additional money for cladding removal, to be paid for by the new Residential Property Developer Tax. Ultimately, though, this is a Budget that has a very clear 'local' economic focus: £1.7bn of projects to upgrade local infrastructure through the first bidding round of the Levelling-Up Fund, and announcing the first 21 projects to benefit from the £150m Community Ownership Fund. This Budget, then, isn't one that addresses local government's ongoing concern about the cost and uncertainty of bid-funding.
The focus on the green agenda focuses on increased funding for the infrastructure for electric vehicles, the decarbonisation of buildings, and carbon capture. In terms of decarbonisation, £450m is set aside for the heat pumps market and £338m to support investment into heat networks. This level of investment may be viewed as insignificant against an overall budget of £3.9bn to be invested in ensuring buildings are warmer, and cheaper to heat.