September fiscal event: CCN response

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2022 | 23 September 2022

Today the Chancellor has delivered the government’s ‘fiscal event’, setting out a range of economic policies and containing new announcements.

A key announcement today was that the government will soon begin discussions with 38 areas on introducing ‘investment zones’, designed to boost economic growth. Upper-tier authorities will be leading on the delivery of these zones, the government has confirmed.

Below, the County Councils Network responds to today’s announcements.

Cllr Matthew Hicks, Economic Growth Spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said:

The County Councils Network (CCN) is pleased that county authorities have been placed at the centre of the government’s Growth Plan on the delivery of investment zones. Counties play a key role in attracting inward investment and in raising productivity, with their size and capacity allowing them to identify the best location for any investment zone and deliver their benefits more quickly, unleashing private sector growth, job creation and regeneration. With discussions on the 38 areas, half of which are in county areas, set to begin, it is imperative that the selection process is fair and transparent, and we look forward to further details on the policy. Opportunities to streamline and consolidate local growth funding contained in the growth plan are the right measures, but they must be made available to all areas beyond mayoral combined authorities.

“If the government’s Growth Plan is to be a success, then it is vital that local economies across England are firing on all cylinders. Devolution offers local authorities the most effective route to raising local productivity through devolved budgets and powers, so it is vital that the government turbocharges devolution to county areas. With the Chancellor today confirming that a new planning bill is being prepared, it is crucial that devolution measures in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill are retained and approved as quickly as possible through Parliament to enable these devolution deals.

With house prices in county areas the highest in England outside of London, and county authorities facing significant infrastructure funding gaps, CCN has long argued that strategic planning could help to defragment the existing planning system and unlock – and accelerate – the delivery of new and affordable homes, backed with the necessary infrastructure. We urge the new government to consider this approach in its forthcoming bill, along with reform to the developer contributions system that sees a fair proportion of funds going to county councils.

“Despite the announcement on the energy price cap this week, county authorities still face severe financial challenges as a result of inflation. Many are predicting overspends this year and are having significant gaps open up in their budgets. In the coming months many will have to reluctantly press pause on infrastructure and capital projects; the very schemes the Chancellor wants to see to improve growth. It is therefore imperative that local authorities receive support from the government to address these inflationary costs through a new Spending Review later this autumn.”