What the Budget means for London
Everything Londoners need to know about the Chancellor's spending plans
Morning — here’s what we’ve spied in the capital on Thursday, March 16, 2023:
💰 It’s hard not to feel a tiny bit left out of Budgets these days as a Londoner. Liverpool, Manchester, the Midlands, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland — pretty much everywhere but London was promised more cash in chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s big speech yesterday. Canary Wharf at least got a shoutout, but only in the context of Hunt saying he’ll deliver “12 potential Canary Wharfs” to the rest of the country through his new investment zones.
Oh well. We all know everyone else is fed up with us being the centre of the universe, and fair enough. But beneath all of Hunt’s levelling-up chat, there were still some scraps in the Budget for Londoners.
Some extra cash for the city’s arts scene, for instance. Hunt announced he’s extending tax relief for theatres, orchestras and museums for an extra two years. It’s hopefully some help for the capital’s cultural institutions, which have been hit by the pandemic and falling visitor numbers amid the cost-of-living crisis. Similarly Hunt said he’s protecting tax breaks for the film and TV industry, which has a big foothold in the capital. Good news for London’s swimmers — leisure centres with pools will be able to dip into a new pot of funding to help pay for soaring energy bills from heating. The cost of a London pint might be getting marginally less expensive too, after Hunt announced a cut to alcohol duty in pubs.
There was also some bigger picture stuff on how London could be governed in the future. Hunt appeared to signal he’s up for giving more economic power to local areas. He said he’s going to boost the “financial autonomy” of mayors in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester by handing over multiple years worth of funding in one go, rather than each year, as well as letting them keep more business taxes. He’ll then see about rolling out these powers to other mayors, which may or may not include London’s. In any case, the city’s individual boroughs might get new powers to plan out their local economic development. But it’s all slightly mixed messages on devolution from Downing Street, given the government is apparently considering blocking the mayor’s expansion of ULEZ.
Speaking of, Sadiq Khan wasn’t exactly happy with Hunt’s announcements. Ahead of the Budget, the mayor tweeted out what he wanted to see, including an extension of London’s new free school meal policy to the rest of the UK, giving City Hall the power to freeze rents in the capital, and funding for a scrappage scheme so those living just outside London can retrofit their cars for new air pollution rules. Unsurprisingly, he got none of that.
🚇 We hope everyone survived the Tube strike yesterday, the seventh in the past year. Train disruption is not quite over though as National Rail services are striking today.
🏙️ Plans to build a skyscraper on the same spot as London’s original Roman Forum have run into planning troubles. The site of a planned 32-story tower on Gracechurch Street was once the heart of the city, functioning as an open-air square and market, until it was destroyed in 300 AD. Its fate now lies in the hands of the City of London’s planning committee, which will examine plans for the skyscraper on Monday.
🏘️ Developers that won’t commit to sorting out fire safety risks have been named and shamed. Michael Gove gave developers a week to sign contracts committing them to repairing dangerous homes, or risk being banned from building new homes. He said the contracts were a way of "ensuring that only those committed to building safety will be allowed to build in the future".
💎 A new exhibit at the Tower of London will explore the history of the contraversal koh-i-noor diamond. The diamond, which is set within the coronation crown of the Queen Mother, was seized by the East India Company after the Second Anglo-Sikh War of 1849 before being gifted to Queen Victoria. Buckingham Palace has already said that the gem won’t be used in the upcoming coronation.
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