We waited in anticipation to hear the budget and understand some of the detail from the Chancellor. Announcements made before the speech included £1.8b for 160K homes on brownfield land, £9m for pocket parks for councils, as well as decarbonisation funds. The pre-budget announcement seemed to be missing the urgent need to fund cladding repair and replacement issues, building safety and funding to secure the gains made from the “everyone in” homelessness programme.
We were also keen to understand how the removal of the Universal Credit uplift might be addressed and how the Chancellor might respond to ongoing concerns regarding the increasing cost of living outstripping the predicted benefits in increases in the national living wage. We waited for the Chancellor to pull something out of the bag.
The chancellor started his speech on a very positive note, saying, “Employment is up, investment is growing, public services are improving, public finances are stabilising and wages are rising.” In his fiscal obligations the Chancellor mentioned putting welfare spending on a sustainable path for a stronger economy for the people. An interesting sentence with nothing we can see to say how this will be achieved.
Responding to one of our earlier queries, (although to be fair, not responding directly to ARK) the Chancellor says £5bn will be made available to remove unsafe cladding from the highest risk buildings, which he says will be partly funded by the Residential Property Developers Tax. The developers’ tax is stated as being levied on developers with profits over £25m at a rate of 4%.
The widely trailed national living wage rise was confirmed at £9.50 from April 2022. The Chancellor announced changes for Universal Credit to cut the Taper Rates for working more hours together with an increased tax allowance £500 introduced no later than 1 December. This should help recover some of the losses from the £20 per week reduction. We are not yet sure of the balance.
It was rather disappointing that the longest and seemingly most detailed announcement, lasting what seemed an age but was 10 minutes of the speech, related to changes in alcohol tax.
As described above there are some potentially welcome points relating to changes in the Universal Credit Taper and commitments to rough sleeping initiatives. Previous announcements relating to brownfield land and the £5bn allocated to removal of unsafe cladding is welcome. As were previous announcements relating to spending on affordable housing over the longer term. It seems a shame that housing just didn’t get the same focus as alcohol sales.