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The Autumn Statement; a positive picture for London – now the government must deliver

While the Chancellor’s first Autumn Statement offered no big surprises, there were positive announcements on key London First priorities as well as some frustrations.

Following the Autumn Statement London First raised its concerns about rail devolution stalling in its tracks. In an interview with the BBC, David Leam, infrastructure director at London First, said:

“A government U-turn on rail devolution would be hugely disappointing. TfL has an unrivalled understanding of how to keep people moving around the capital and giving the Mayor responsibility means the buck would ultimately stop with him. Clinging onto Department for Transport control would be bad news for passengers commuting into London every day.”

A positive step was the Chancellor’s £3.15 billion allocation to build 90,000 affordable homes in London through a new devolution deal. The announcement is well timed for London First as we push for the capital to build the homes it needs through ongoing policy work and the Fifty Thousand Homes campaign.

Naomi Smith, Executive Director Campaigns said, “The Mayor’s delivery of 90,000 genuinely affordable homes by 2021 is welcomed but not sufficient, falling short of the 50,000 homes a year our capital needs to remain globally competitive. In London, there is a real opportunity to make public land available and ready for development. We hope the Mayor will deliver on his promise and fast track these opportunities too.”

The Chancellor also committed to using new infrastructure investment to unlock land for housing. Investing in rail links such as Crossrail 2, a DLR extension to Thamesmead and an extension of the Bakerloo line would be positive steps towards achieving this goal. Improving connectivity for homes and businesses along these transport lines is vital, as well as unlocking more land for homes, jobs and growth for London.

Another positive signal came with the announcement of the £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund, which will be spent on transport, digital communications, research and development, and housing.

A move towards a full-fibre network in the UK is also welcomed, and London business will react positively to the 100% business rates relief on new fibre infrastructure for a five year period. However, it is difficult to understand why the government hasn’t found a better way to phase in the business rate hike for all affected companies. While business is happy to pay its way, current proposals risk being an unnecessary shock to hundreds of companies.

Reacting to the statement, John Dickie, London First’s Director of Strategy and Policy, said: “Investing in, and improving, the UK’s infrastructure will help drive productivity and growth across the country. London has the potential to step up its economic performance and we are urging government to ensure we remain competitive on a global scale, with London playing its part in a stronger economy for the UK as a whole.”

Contact: David Leam, dleam@londonfirst.co.uk

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