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Government / Local politics

Budget round-up: the Northern Powerhouse, the Help to Buy ISA and Scottish city devolution

Here’s our round-up of the UK budget announcements that will affect the running of UK cities, and the lives of those that live in them. 

Buy more bloody houses 

We know how you all love housing. Sadly, the biggest of today’s housing announcements didn’t focus on how we could, say, build more of it: instead, chancellor George Osborne focused on increasing demand, through a new Help to Buy ISA with a 25 per cent top-up.

This means that for every £200 saved (the monthly maximum), the government would give you £50, so you could buy a house that much faster. Which would, in turn, drive up house prices. Terrific. 

He also confirmed the introduction of 20 housing zones across the country. These are basically packages of brownfield land where planning restrictions are removed to encourage housebuilding. 

Everyone loves the North

We’re beginning to suspect politicians like talking about the Northern Powerhouse just because it sounds cool. But to give him credit, Osborne announced investment in the north’s chemical industries and health projects, plus gave the green light to HS3 (a high-speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds). 

Greater Manchester’s devolution deal also looks set to allow the city to keep 100 per cent of the growth in local business rates; a similar deal was announced for Cambridge. 

In his opening “look at how great I am” spiel, Osborne also announced that the north has grown faster economically than the south over the past year, and claimed “We are seeing a truly national recovery”. 

Plans for London’s planners

Osborne generously called London the “global capital of the world” before announcing new powers for the Mayor on skills and planning and new funding for the London Land Commission, so it can build more houses (that’s more like it). 

Devo Glasgow 

Osborne confirmed that the Glasgow City Deal will be implemented: he added that this could “open the door” for similar deals in Aberdeen and Inverness. 

Something about the internet of things

As we’ve noted before, broadband speeds across the UK are incredibly variable (if you live in Sheffield, for example, you probably can’t read this), and an increasing number of industries rely on fast internet speeds. To tackle this, Osborne announced broadband vouchers for businesses across more cities, and funding for Wi-Fi in public libraries.

In his speech, Osborne claimed this would be an investment in the “Internet of Things”, though it wasn’t clear what this meant beyond a chance for a laboured dig at Ed Miliband. “So should – to use a ridiculous example – someone have two kitchens, they will be able to control both fridges from the same mobile phone.” Oh, our sides.
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