Responding to today’s Spring Budget, Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and chair of Core Cities UK, said:
This is a budget underpinned by continued austerity that will actually make life harder for some of the most vulnerable people in our cities.
Yesterday, the RSA unveiled the findings of its Inclusive Growth Commission, an independent wide-ranging report, supported by Core Cities UK. If the current government is serious about creating a ‘shared society’ and an ‘economy that works for everyone’ it needs to follow some of the RSA’s recommendations, including rethinking our definitions of economic growth and resetting the relationship between an overly centralised state and local places.
Core Cities leaders and mayors are finding, as stated in the RSA report, that cutting services in cities is counter-productive, actually increasing the eventual costs to the state.
What the country needs right now is greater investment in preventative services and more power to place so we can create a joined-up, smarter state that reduces waste and duplication and takes accounts of people’s needs. Meanwhile, the Chancellor’s attempts to alleviate the social care crisis, which already include an unfair council tax precept, are still less than adequate. However, we anticipate and look forward to contributing to the Green Paper on social care that will be published later this year.
The Chancellor’s announcements on business rate relief will require further study, so we can work out the potential fiscal effects given the proposed retention of business rates by English Core Cities in 2020.
We will also look carefully at Government plans for changes to the A-Level and skills system, but we will continue to argue that only by fully devolving education and skills budgets can we transform the prospects of our cities’ people and create greater prosperity for all.
In addition, productivity – despite measures by chancellors of all political colours over the last two decades – is still flat-lining. The economy has key structural weaknesses that we believe an approach based around empowering UK cities holds the key to fixing.
Given the right levers and freedoms the Core Cities can put £66bn a year into the UK economy, more than enough to give us ‘fuel in the tank’ for a future outside the European Union.
At a time of great change for our nation, the Chancellor has delivered an underwhelming, ‘steady as she goes’ budget that will do little to help our cities fulfil their vast potential.