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All roads and rail lead to the Autumn Statement

All roads and rail lead to the Autumn Statement

🕔23.Nov 2016

It’s probably one of the most anticipated Autumn Statements for many years, given it is the first major set piece financial statement from a new Government and the first following the Brexit referendum decision.

Apparently, Chancellor Philip Hammond is not a fan of having what has effectively become a second Budget every year. Neither is he a “rabbit out of the hat” kind of chap in the form of predecessors Brown and Osborne.

Which is lucky, given he has little or no scope for such last minute tricks. Although my guess is he won’t be able to resist at least a small bunny or two along the way.

Brexit and some new fiscal rules to give the Treasury more “headroom” to deal with the short to medium term consequences of the economic fallout from the 23 June decision will dominate the speech in the House of Commons starting a little after 12.30pm today.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts to be released after will provide today’s real economic currency.

Modifications to or around the Universal Benefit scheme, some more money for house building and an “outright ban on landlords charging ‘sky high’ letting fees” are all to be expected to be in there.

Confirmation of the national living wage and changes to personal tax allowance bands will also be unveiled, targeting the ‘Just About Managing’ section of the electorate. I suppose JAMs makes a change from ‘hard working families.’

READ: The making of an Industrial Strategy is hard work.

But closer to home, we will be watching for anything which might impact on our city regional economy and in particular any small gifts for the Midlands Engine and the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Commitments to infrastructure and in particular investment in road and rail have been the principal teaser in the lead up to today’s Statement. Midlands Connect and Transport for West Midlands will be waiting to see if their ‘asks’ come through.

You can be pretty sure Conservative mayoral candidate Andy Street will be primed by his friends in the party and ready to claim victory for any packages heading our way.

In a series of tweets this morning, Mr Street said:

What I particularly hope to see from today’s #autumnstatement is continued support for the #devolution process here in the West Midlands

Growth-driven investments in the economy and a specific investment or two for the WM to build on our £4.4bn connectivity package.

He highlighted the £5M investment in a ‘Midlands Rail Hub’ which will be formally confirmed, aimed at relieving the bottlenecks around New Street and Snow Hill stations.

Siôn Simon, Labour’s candidate, is campaigning for ownership and control of the M6 toll. He said:

…I’m campaigning for a government-backed deal to take regional control of the M6 toll and make it free. Taking the pressure off the roads we use inside the West Midlands.

We can’t leave it to London to sort out our problems. But with new powers and a West Midlands Mayor, getting things done, we can take back control of our own place and get the West Midlands moving again.

Lib Dem candidate Beverley Nielsen said:

We need to be focusing on our own home made businesses and they need better roads, better rail and better broadband. At a time when the Bank of England is pinning interest rates to the floor, there is no better time to invest in infrastructure. When interest rates rise, the opportunity will be gone. Better capital allowances are a good thing, but not when business rates eat into any gains as a result of new capital equipment.

She continued:

If the Chancellor really wants to help those families who are earning about £20,000 per year and as a result miss out on benefits such as free school meals, he could invest in the building of social homes in the de-industrialised areas of Great Britain: the West Midlands being just one of them. This is where the most disenfranchised live; the ones who registered their vote to leave during the referendum.

As ever, the devil will be in the detail of the Autumn Statement. In this era of so called ‘post-truth’ politics that may never have been more true.

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