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  • Writer's pictureDavid Marlow

LED Confidential's Budget 2024 wishlist

Updated: Feb 29

OK, it’s that time of year when everyone tries to persuade the Chancellor and the Treasury to include in the Budget their solution to the country’s problems. The Budget focuses mainly on resource allocation and tax, while LEDC is more oriented to economic development policy and practice. Nevertheless, David and Mike picked a couple of ideas each that they would like to see somewhere in the Budget and suite of accompanying documents. Fair to say that Mike’s probably will appear somewhere, David’s almost certainly NOT – can you spot whose is whose?!

HM Treasury building

Reducing planning bottlenecks by major investment in capacity building

It is patently obvious that many areas are short of ‘can-do’ planners at the scale and of the quality to navigate approval of the most ambitious city region strategic and local authority Local Plans. Thereafter they need to deliver a level and complexity of development for local improvement – whether in housing, infrastructure, employment, environmental or other physical use classes.

Mike suggested a major programme of capacity building to deliver a pipeline of trained planners, streamlined consent processes, and easier deployment of gap-filling private sector contributors to the processes in the interim.

Increase the size of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to at least match what local areas might have expected under previous EU frameworks

Many commentators – including LED Confidential – have criticised the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) as too small, too short-term, and too centralised, with the requirement for area Investment Plans to be signed off by Whitehall generating months-long delays. Imagine how surprised David was, therefore, when Mike made this his second suggestion for a Budget 2024 announcement.

To be fair, with SPF due to run out in 2025, some sort of successor arrangements are both needed and almost inevitable to be referenced on March 6th. Both of us hope it will be a clear staging point on a journey to simplified flexible and longer-term strategic funding at scale for local contributions to key shared national-local priorities like sustainable growth, inclusion, and net zero.

Permit LAs to access an interest-payment holiday from their PWLB loans if it will help them deliver financial stability without S114 notices

David and Mike discussed the arguably reckless lending of Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) to Local Authorities (LAs) in an earlier LEDC February Espresso Shot. Coincidentally, the +/-£4bn LAs will pay in interest on their £100bn of outstanding PWLB loans is very similar to the £4bn the ‘Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ (LUHC) Select Committee says LAs need to remain financially sustainable whilst delivering services to their communities this year. Interest rate holiday if needed? Job done…

Raise Infrastructure Investment funding in devo-deals to the National Infrastructure Commission guidance level of 1.1 – 1.3% of GVA

David bemoans how Government gets away with celebrating infrastructure investment funds in devo deals where the headline figure (say £30mpa over 30 years) seems impressive. In his own area, Greater Lincolnshire is consulting on a Level 3 deal whose main financial goodie is said to be an infrastructure investment pot of £24mpa – equivalent to about 0.1% of local GVA. What if the budget announced that henceforth, all devo deals can negotiate infrastructure investment funds at the figure based on that which the National Infrastructure Commission uses – 1.1 – 1.3% of GVA. With a guide level of £250mpa over 30 years – now that’s a Greater Lincolnshire deal even I could begin to get excited about!

Tell us what you think…of any of our suggestions. Propose your own ideas for consideration in the March 6th Budget. We’ll discuss your feedback and continue the conversation in our bonus material…


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