The West Midlands has secured a housing deal while the next revaluation of business rates will take place in 2021, the chancellor has confirmed.
In his spring statement Philip Hammond said the government had agreed a housing deal with the West Midlands which will see the region build 215,000 homes by 2030-31 aided by a £100m grant.
Mr Hammond said the next business rates revaluation will take place in 2021 and subsequent reviews will then take place every three years.
There was no extra funding announced in his speech but Mr Hammond did indicate there might be more money available for public services in the autumn Budget if the state of the nation’s finances continues to improve.
He said: “If, in the autumn, the public finances continue to reflect the improvements that today’s report hints at then, in accordance with our balanced approach and using the flexibility provided by the fiscal rules, I would have capacity to enable further increases in public spending and investment in the years ahead.”
Martin Reeves, local government finance spokesman for the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, said: “It is very disappointing that today’s spring statement does nothing to alleviate the funding crisis facing local services, given the National Audit Office’s warning mere days ago that local government is fast becoming financially unsustainable. Councils have sacrificed more than any other part of the public sector to help the public finances improve but cannot continue to do so without great cost to local residents.”
The chancellor’s commitment to bring forward the next business rates revaluation - it was due in 2022 - “must not introduce more instability to councils’ financial base”, said Mr Reeves. “We urgently need a coherent, enduring long term funding solution for those services closest to our communities.”
Rob Whiteman, chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy, said: “The suggestion that there might be additional resources in the autumn will not satisfy those public bodies struggling right now.”
He said “much is riding on” the government’s social care green paper and added it “is crucial the government begin making plans to ensure the sustainability of the sector”.
Mr Whiteman also called on the government to “engage in an open and honest conversation of exactly which services it expects councils to deliver, given the current level of funding they receive” as part of the fair funding review.
“This approach should be extended to all areas of government,” he added. “It is time there was a full review of how service expectations across all public bodies fit against the funding levels they receive.”
On the housing deal, the West Midlands CA said its bid for £250m from the housing infrastructure fund had been “approved” taking the package’s total to £350m. The deal includes a commitment from the government to work with housing associations on new ways to finance and build affordable housing to rent or buy, as well as the creation of a new joint delivery team with Homes England to ensure developments are delivered on time.
West Midlands mayor Andy Street (Con) said the deal is “a huge milestone” for the region and added: “This funding will see tens of millions of pounds invested to remediate brownfield sites, of which our region has many, to build homes and install the infrastructure required to accommodate growth, helping to relieve pressure on our green belt.
“Crucially, this investment provides funding to deliver the Commonwealth Games athletes’ village as well as a host of sites in Coventry, Solihull and the Black Country.”
Meanwhile, Mr Hammond announced the initial findings of Sir Oliver Letwin’s review into slow-build out rates has also been published.
John Fuller (Con), chair of the District Councils’ Network, welcomed Sir Oliver’s interim update and added: “If local councils are to be responsible for delivering housing in their area, central government must strengthen and support their negotiating power when dealing with developers and builders.”
He also said Mr Hammond had “missed an opportunity to recognise the crucial role” districts play in communities, especially in relation to health and prevention services.
Also on housing Mr Hammond announced London will receive an additional £1.7bn to deliver a further 26,000 affordable homes by 2021-22, while talks with more than 40 councils which have bid for a share of the housing infrastructure fund are underway.