A defining moment for levelling up

By Sir Stephen Houghton | 08 November 2022

Sir Stephen Houghton warns Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt have some huge economic choices to make, but with the Autumn Statement looming it is vital local government funding is protected if the levelling up agenda is to make progress

The Autumn Statement scheduled for 17 November will, in many ways, define the new Prime Minister’s first term in office and the wider levelling up agenda. With the Government required to close a huge black hole in the public finances to meet their goal of reducing the debt as a proportion of the economy within the next few years, Rishi Sunak faces some big choices.

Indeed, in his speech outside Downing Street just after becoming PM, he talked of ‘difficult decisions’ to come. With the tax u-turns announced so far only covering about half of the UK Government’s predicted £70bn gap, many are assuming that austerity via spending cuts will cover a large part of the rest.

However, it is absolutely essential the chancellor and PM do not target local government for any further cuts. Local authorities have faced £16bn in real term cuts compared to 2010-11 – a disproportionate level compared to other areas of the public sector. The simple fact is there is no ‘fat’ to cut and no meaningful ‘efficiencies’ to make.

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Finance SIGOMA Policy Autumn Statement Rishi Sunak