What it means for LEPs and Local Growth
In his eighth Budget, George Osborne confirmed that up to £1.8 billion will be allocated through a further round of Growth Deals later this year and announced that a further £2 billion of the Local Growth Fund is being allocated through the Home Building Fund.
The Local Growth Fund gives Local Enterprise Partnerships control over £12 billion of central government funding to spend in line with local priorities. The initial two rounds of Growth Deals have given local areas nearly £8 billion to drive growth through investing in the infrastructure their areas need.
Other specific LEP initiatives included further Enterprise Zones (Hertfordshire’s Enviro-Tech Zone was confirmed in November 2015). LEPs will be required to have a Small Business Representative to sit on all boards (Hertfordshire LEP currently has two SME reps on its main LEP Board).
Devolution featured prominently in some neighbouring LEP areas, with deals for East Anglia, covering Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and greater Lincolnshire.
What it means for Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire’s headlines are in relation to transport and infrastructure, in the South East and East of England. The Government has asked the National Infrastructure Commission to develop proposals for unlocking growth, housing and jobs in the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor.
£80m funding for full scale technical development of Crossrail 2 which would link commuters in Broxbourne to London and on to Surrey by connecting with existing National Rail routes. The Government will provide £80m to develop the project and is asking Transport for London (TfL) to match it. The aim is to bring forward a Hybrid Bill this Parliament and get the first train running in 2033.
Commitment to Crossrail 2 brings is expectted to bring much needed investment into the West Anglia Mainline which would see a package of improvements that include two new rail tracks between London and Hertfordshire. They would provide the faster, more reliable and frequent rail service that is needed for businesses to thrive, with an additional four trains per hour to some stops and significantly reduced journey times from Cambridge to London.
The Government also announced its intention to develop transport facilities and connectivity in the East of England, with £5m to fund the redevelopment of St Albans City station.
Looking further afield Lord Heseltine is to lead the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission. The Commission will develop an ambitious vision and delivery plan for North Kent, South Essex and East London up to 2050.
And the Homes and Communities Agency is to work in partnership with Network Rail and local authorities to provide land around stations for housing, commercial development and regeneration. This could have potential implications for regenerating our New Towns, such as Stevenage, where the development of the railway station is seen as the catalyst for the town centre regeneration.
Other Budget commitments
Skills and Employment
As announced at the Autumn Statement 2015, an Apprenticeship Levy will be introduced in April 2017, when employers will receive a 10% top-up to their monthly levy contributions in England. The Government is to review the gaps in support for lifetime learning, including for flexible and part-time study. Apprenticeship growth and a commitment to lifelong learning form part of Hertfordshire’s Skills Strategy. The new mandatory National Living Wage (NLW) will come into effect from 1 April 2016, set at £7.20 an hour for workers aged 25 and above. The National Minimum Wage (NMW), which applies for workers aged between 21 and 24, will be set at the main rate of £6.95 from October 2016.
The Government supports the construction of a new wave of garden towns and cities across the country, with the potential to deliver over 100,000 homes. The Budget announces that the government will legislate to make it easier for local authorities to work together to create new garden towns. For areas that want to establish smaller settlements, the government will provide technical and financial support to areas that want to establish garden villages and market towns of between 1,500 to 10,000 homes.
Corporation tax rate is to fall to 17% in 2020 and from April 2017, small businesses that occupy property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less will pay no business rates. Currently, this 100% relief is available if you’re a business that occupies a property (e.g. a shop or office) with a value of £6,000 or less. There will be a tapered rate of relief on properties worth up to £15,000. This means that 600,000 businesses will pay no rates. Capital Gains Tax rates will be cut from 6 April 2016, but residential property will still be taxed at current rates. This does not apply to a main home, only to additional properties.
A £1 billion package has been set out to support SMEs through the British Business Bank.