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Autumn Statement – our priorities

Ahead of the Autumn Statement next week London First has written to the Chancellor Philip Hammond MP to outline London’s business priorities. We have also reiterated these points through meetings with senior officials and advisers at the Treasury and Department for Transport.

The recent announcement that the government will back plans to build a new runway at Heathrow airport was enthusiastically welcomed by London First. Having long campaigned for a decision on airport expansion to be made through our Let Britain Fly campaign we are delighted at the resulting prospect of a boost to British business, increased international connectivity and ultimately the promotion of the country as a global aviation hub. In parallel we need to press on with making the most of existing airports capacity and making it easier for future growth proposals to come forward.

However, businesses in London and the wider UK inevitably face a period of uncertainty as the government negotiates Britain’s exit from the European Union. Therefore, we urge the government to use the Autumn Statement to provide greater certainty on domestic policy to help build business confidence and support sustained economic growth.

We encourage the Chancellor to focus on these three priority areas:

Infrastructure investment

  • To continue to attract global capital, expertise and talent to London and the UK, we must stay the course with existing infrastructure commitments such as in roads, rail and HS2. London also needs to drive ahead with future plans, in particular Crossrail 2.
  • There is a strong case for increasing overall capital spend on economically productive infrastructure development. Fulfilling London’s growth potential would bring significant benefits to both London and the UK. Our recent report London’s infrastructure: investing for growth, suggested that if infrastructure investment enabled an increase in London’s GVA growth rate by just 1% this would yield an additional £1.9 trillion to the economy.
  • Near term investment options to provide economic stimulus include accelerating essential repair and maintenance plans for the Tube, rail and road networks in and around London as well as additional new trains.

Housing

  • Higher house building in the capital could be enabled by clarifying London’s share of the government’s shared ownership and affordable homes programme and allowing this grant to be used flexibly for homes of all tenures.
  • At the top of the market, punitive SDLT rates which have resulted in a collapse in transactions must be addressed.
  • Streamline the disposal of public land by establishing a disposals protocol with the GLA. For example, give the GLA right of first refusal to purchase surplus public land in London.
  • Continue government support for the build to rent sector.

Devolution

  • Giving UK cities greater control over locally generated revenues would enable more effective long-term planning and investment in schemes that will support additional economic growth.
  • We welcome the government’s proposals to replace grants with retained business rates and have been encouraged by the Treasury’s constructive engagement with Tony Travers and the London Finance Commission.
  • We remain keen to see high level political support for the devolution of suburban rail services. In particular we are keen to see detailed proposals agreed for the transfer of responsibility from DfT to TfL for inner suburban rail services that operate mostly or wholly within Greater London.
  • We support the Mayor having greater power to address local skills and employability challenges on which we understand discussions are going well.

Finally, we have urged the government to freeze business rates in London where there would be a potential rise following the revaluation of rates. This revaluation is a major concern for the city’s businesses considering the heightened scrutiny on the cost of doing business in London and our relative international competitiveness.

 

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