Budget 2016: With Crossrail 2 and the opportunity for London to keep its business rates, there were bright spots for the capital

Tina Hallett
This is good news not just for those living and working in London but those commuting in from afar too (Source: Getty)

With the ‘storm clouds gathering’, the Budget revealed additional pain for public servants – an extra £3.5bn in spending cuts over the remainder of the parliament.

For many this Budget will feel like just another twist in the story of fiscal austerity over this decade, adding further momentum to massive changes that are already under way across the public sector.

But for London, there were some bright spots beyond the streets of Whitehall.

While there were no significant announcements relating to housing affordability in London, the promises of more major transport programmes will be welcomed by many, especially the announcement on Crossrail 2 and further investment planned on schemes outside the capital.

We know from our good growth research with think tank Demos that London lags behind other UK cities due to the pressures related to its economic prosperity such as housing affordability and transport congestion. So this is good news not just for those living and working in London but those commuting in from afar too.

And on devolution there is welcome news with further powers for the new mayor, with the announcement that the Greater London Authority will see the full retention of business rates from next April, a full three years earlier than expected.

A Thames Estuary growth commission was also announced, with news that this will be chaired by Lord Heseltine providing extra weight and gravitas. And for the capital's small businesses and enterprise, a raft of measures to lower the tax burden and create jobs.

So there are positive signs of the chancellor investing for growth but, as he consistently points out, there is still much to be done to repair the public finances in the face of global headwinds.

For public servants inside and outside London, this Budget means a relentless focus across government on doing better for less, realising more value from assets, and a drive to become digital by default.

Whether the chancellor can reach his goal of a surplus by 2020 is open to debate - but the need to continue to change and improve government is not.

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