Reaction to the Budget from Jessica Bowles, director of strategy at Bruntwood

3rd March 2021, 3:53 pm

On levelling-up & departmental relocations 

“The Chancellor said he wanted to level with the country about the state of our public finances, but we’re owed the same clarity on levelling up too.

“While there were plenty of encouraging announcements today, the government continues to send mixed messages. Plans to slash budgets for Transport for the North alongside the interminable delay to the devolution whitepaper sit at odds with its core pillar of policy.

“Levelling up will only work if both money and power moves from Whitehall and into the regions to enable joined-up decision making at a local level.

“Plans to move more civil servants and even entire government departments out of London are nothing new and the pace to date has been glacial. Today’s announcements finally put some meat on the bones.

“But while welcome, they won’t move the needle on reducing regional inequalities, the roots of which lie much deeper. It will take sustained investment and new approaches to the delivery of health services and education, alongside relocations.”

On ongoing Covid-stimulus

“It has been a long and cold winter for retail and hospitality operators so the Re-Start Grants are a welcome initiative that will help the economy to get moving this summer and bring vibrancy back to our cities.

“The commitment to continue with furlough until the autumn will give businesses time to get back on their feet after restrictions hopefully end in June. Their ability to bounce back quickly and safely is vital to the long-term health of our towns and cities. And this isn’t about one particular sector but all businesses playing their role in the recovery of the ecosystems that sustain these places. With their strength restored, the Chancellor can then begin easing support measures as the economy starts to heal itself.”

On science / technology

“The government has been big on rhetoric around its support for technology and life sciences, where the UK’s leading global position has come to the fore in the fight against Covid.

“But, while the principle behind initiatives like Future Fund: Breakthrough and the previously launched ARIA independent research agency are sound, the level of funding is hardly transformative. Our spending on R&D is still a drop in the ocean compared to other advanced economies.

“We also need to think boldly about how this money is spent to ensure it reaches right into communities across the North and Midlands – creating rich eco-systems that connect the excellence of our universities to our industrial and manufacturing base and ensure people have the skills to take up the hundreds of thousands of jobs that could be created.

“The new ‘fast track’ visa to attract highly skilled workers into fast growing companies in science and technology is welcome news given the huge impact Brexit has had on access to talent from Europe.”

On Green Bonds

“The UK has an enviable track record in renewable power but there are many hard yards left to run in the race to net zero. We hope the new Green Bonds will bring much needed investment into greener transport infrastructure and public buildings too.”

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