Chancellor Jeremy Hunt declared the Autumn Statement would focus on the Government’s three priorities – stability, growth and public services.

The senior management team at Ardent share their thoughts on the measures which have been announced to improve the UK’s finances.

Jon Stott, Group Managing Director, focused on the Government’s commitment to infrastructure projects and the new Levelling Up Fund which will give an extra £1.7 billion to new projects.

He said: “Against a backdrop of concern that Jeremy Hunt might look to cut spending on infrastructure projects, and pull back completely from previous Levelling Up commitments, it was pleasing to hear him re-commit to delivering High Speed 2 (HS2) to Manchester, East West Rail, and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

“But the quicker Government clarifies what it means by ‘core’ NPR, the better – the full length of the Liverpool-Hull corridor is in desperate need of major investment in rail, and after cutting the eastern-leg of HS2 it is essential that the Yorkshire and North-East region is not let-down further.

“We are pleased to see a commitment to round two of the Levelling Up Fund, with confirmation that Government will match the level of funding that was provided through the first round.

“That will give those towns and cities most in need of economic regeneration confidence that they will have the opportunity to benefit from Government funding, which is increasingly needed to deliver meaningful interventions to achieve socio-economic improvements, and continue to achieve levelling up in some of the most deprived areas of our country.”

Rob Quaile, Director of Regeneration and Development, believes the Chancellor has committed to funding for infrastructure and regeneration in the Levelling-Up Fund since it considers it to be key to the UK’s growth.

He said: “Jeremy Hunt has made a commitment to continuing Levelling-Up the economy and the country with a focus on infrastructure, education, care and innovation. Talk of Levelling-Up without dedicated public investment runs the risk of becoming simply an empty tagline. So, it is great to see the promise within the Autumn Statement of this continued funding and the proposals that will help achieve transformational regeneration in communities across the country.

“Investment Zones are being refocused to be centred on universities in left-behind areas – linking investment zones proposals to the pledge to focus on innovation through significant investment in R&D to meet the stated aim of making the UK the next Silicon Valley.

“The decision to retain the Stamp Duty cuts announced in the mini-budget until the end of 2025 shows that there is a recognition that the housing market is beginning to struggle – this measure should benefit developers trying to sell homes at a time when mortgage rates have risen significantly.

“The Government’s viewed success of the trailblazing devolutions in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester has led to new devolution deals in Suffolk, Cornwall, Norfolk and an area of the North East to be decided which will be interesting to monitor as areas are given more autonomy. This measure should help the hindering of community-led regeneration due to political short-termism – although clear funding streams are equally as important.

“A recommitment to the revaluation of properties for business rates purposes next year will be good news for many businesses to ensure that the rates paid are based on up-to-date market values.

“There will be an additional Transitional Relief scheme introduced by Government of £1.6 billion to cap bill increases for those with an increased property market value to limit bill increases to 5 per cent for the smallest businesses.

“This should help protect the high street – however, many small businesses will argue that more support is needed right now to combat the energy crisis and to keep businesses operating.”

Nick Dexter, Senior Director and Head of Utilities, Environment and Power, gave his thought on the utilities and traditional power news.

He said: “From a utilities perspective the key announcements related to broadband, Carbon Capture and Storage, and energy independence. Energy independence requires the utility infrastructure to be in place to make this happen.

“Government also remains committed to supporting digital infrastructure investment through Project Gigabit, with an ambition to reach at least 85 per cent gigabit-capable broadband coverage by 2025 and nationwide coverage by 2030 which is to be welcomed.”

Peter Gibbard, Senior Director and Head of Renewable Energy, said the announcements on renewable energy would help Government to reach its Net Zero targets.

He said: “It was pleasing to see that there was a maintained commitment to cheap renewable energy, including wind and solar.

“We will need to wait to see if the windfall tax on electricity generators could deter investment in clean renewable energy projects.

“This is surely not welcome when Government should be incentivising investment into clean energy. And let’s not forget that wind and solar projects remain the cheapest sources of new power since it is considerably cheaper than gas.”

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