The chancellor opened his speech with talk of “investment in the future”, and this was made explicit in the areas of health, education, security and infrastructure … and it was interesting to note the order these were announced. The radical reallocation is towards the green agenda, (not Sir Philip, the environment!) and research, with the science budget protected in its entirety.
We heard a long list of infrastructure schemes that have been retained. In real terms, however, the transportation capital budget has been cut about 11% over the spending review period. So the challenge will now be on us as a sector to deliver more with less.
The chancellor made a commitment to invest in education, and the removal of ringfencing is truly empowering for schools. There was also a commitment to community engagement through the free schools initiative.
What is worrying, though, is the net capital reduction of 60% over the review period. We are not sure how this fits with giving priority to education - and the need to renew 600 schools and repair the rest of the estate.
The chancellor chose to continue with many prior commitments including some infrastructure schemes, but initiatives such as the prison capacity programme have been curtailed. Overall this is good news for our sector, and is backed up with a further £2bn of funding for existing commitments.
With above-average reductions in capital budgets for the communities department and the devolved regions, the onus will now be on individual councils and regions to collaborate and come up with fresh ideas to unlock value from their existing land and property.
We got more detail than we had expected in some respects - such as the superfast broadband project for Herefordshire. The question now is what further announcements will be made as the detail emerges from each department.
This blog was co-written with Simon Rawlinson of EC Harris