March’s Spring Statement lacked the sparkle of the full Autumn Budget, but gave a useful update on progress since November’s announcements and a signpost to what we can expect for the remainder of the year.
James Bailey, managing partner, analyses Chancellor Philip Hammond’s speech to parliament and outlines the three things we learned.
- Steady progress is being made in tackling the UK’s housing challenge. Last year’s Autumn Budget announced specific measures to ensure that the supply of homes is meeting demand, targeting 300,000 new builds a year on average by the mid-2020s.
- Spring Statement highlighted that work to reach this target has already started, with many areas bidding for access to the £4.1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund. Plans to double the Housing Growth Partnership - which provides financial support for small housebuilders – are also welcome, but it is crucial that this investment is spread around the country for real progress to be made.
- Stamp Duty changes are beginning to have an effect. The abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers of homes under £300,000 was one of the best-received announcements from the Autumn Budget, and the Spring Statement confirmed that an estimated 60,000 first-time buyers so far have benefitted from the changes. While it is only a small sample size so far, this is a really positive sign and we hope Nottingham and the East Midlands will feel the benefits on an increased number of first-time buyers, especially with the areas comparatively low rates of retention for the our student population post-university.
- Long-awaited investment in digital infrastructure is coming. After the announcement of a £190 million Challenge Fund to aid the roll-out of full fibre broadband in the Autumn Budget, it now looks like the first steps are being made in allocating that pot.
While the East Midlands wasn’t included in the 13 areas that will receive the first wave of funding, full fibre will be a huge boost to businesses, providing them with the fast, reliable internet that has become essential to remain competitive.