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Spending Review hopes, from the economic front line

21st October 2021 By Ben Lowndes
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The government’s Spending Review is widely seen as one of the set piece economic events of its strategic programme.

Coming on the same day as the autumn budget, it will set ministerial departments’ spending until 2025 and unveil new initiatives and programmes in some key areas.

The review brings months of negotiations to a head. It will hopefully give a clearer sense of how the government intends to use its spending power to meet priorities around areas like ‘levelling up’, net zero and ‘building back better’.

This blog post isn’t intended to be another one of those speculative pieces about what may happen, which are everywhere this week. It’s simply a collection of thoughts from clients, partners and organisations we know well who work on the country’s economic front line.

Business Improvement Districts, developer partners, Local Enterprise Partnerships and public bodies. These are people who know what ‘building back better’ looks like up close, because they work to deliver it every day.

We’re grateful to them for sharing their thoughts and look forward to the spending review on 27 October.

Hopes for the Spending Review

Rachel Fitzgerald, Chief Executive Officer, Southport Business Improvement District

“Firstly, is business rates reform. The tax is unsustainable for the high street as its structure pre-dates the growth of online technology. We need business-based properties to pay less, and for the online giants to make up the shortfall to level the playing field, with that additional income from online be redistributed to local authorities and BIDs so they don’t lose out and can continue service delivery. The reform suggested by the Treasury so far only deals with the frequency of the revaluations, but not the cost burden of high street businesses.

“Secondly, we have the issue of excessive debt for occupiers and property owners. We would like the Treasury to develop a clear, long-term plan for how we support both to overcome this debt and get back to a positive financial position. Business rates reform is part of this solution.”

Rachel Fitzgerald, Chief Executive Officer, Southport Business Improvement District


Esther Croft, Development Director, Reef Group

“If we are to see real change, it is critical that any levelling up funds are distributed widely and in a way that can be highly localised in order to target those areas in most need. Too often the same places in Gloucestershire get overlooked because they are pockets of deprivation in otherwise more affluent areas of the county.

“I want to see the net-zero agenda move on. An increasing number of companies are paying into carbon offset funds which is a positive thing but should be seen as a short-term measure. Businesses need to be encouraged to take action to reduce their carbon footprint through the choices they make when it comes to their offices, energy use and travel. Our scheme in Gloucester will be net-zero in operation – this is surely a huge drawcard for any business looking to improve its environmental performance.

“A plan for dealing for inflation is urgently needed. A significant rise is most certainly on the way and poses a serious threat to the post-pandemic recovery.”

Esther Croft, Development Director, Reef Group


Joe Manning, Deputy CEO, Cheshire and Warrington LEP

“We had a pre-Spending Review boost with the confirmation that HyNet North West will be one of the first two hydrogen and carbon capture and storage projects to be delivered in the UK, which gives a huge boost to our vision for Cheshire and Warrington as a leader in low carbon technology and innovation and to the development of green jobs.

“Securing funding commitment to HyNet was our major Spending Review ask, however, with transport responsible for 27% of emissions in Cheshire and Warrington, we also hope to see investment in our sustainable travel infrastructure and digital infrastructure.

“Alongside this, we would like to see funding for digital skills to help people – particularly young people and others hit hard by the pandemic – discover new opportunities in a fast-changing labour market, and support our levelling up ambitions. And, like many LEPs, we are eagerly awaiting publication of the Levelling Up White Paper, LEP Review, Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) Review and other policies that will affect our future working.”

Joe Manning, Deputy CEO, Cheshire and Warrington LEP


NP11 Chair, Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, speaks at the Convention of the North with NP11 event in Rotherham in 2019

“We’ve already had a positive announcement ahead of the Spending Review, with both the North’s industrial decarbonisation clusters being selected by Government as the first two to be delivered nationally. This is a fantastic validation of the North’s ability to lead the country’s net zero transition, creating the high-wage, highly skilled jobs that are central to the Government’s levelling up vision.

“The North is also driving innovation in life sciences which will be key to tackling the health inequalities laid bare by COVID-19. We hope the Spending Review will confirm funding to make good on the Government’s commitment to ramping up R&D investment.

“We won’t achieve levelling up without a transport system that connects people to jobs, education and opportunity, and we hope the Spending Review will commit to the promised transport infrastructure the North needs, in particular confirmation that Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 will be delivered in full.”

David Levene, Director, The NP11


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