Devolution, infrastructure and other measures
The Government will expand the Enterprise Zone programme in England with the announcement of 18 new sites across the country and the extension of eight sites on the current programme. These include 15 Zones in smaller towns and rural areas, spreading Enterprise Zone benefits to 108 sites across the country.
Devolution across the UK
The Chancellor confirmed the Government’s commitment to devolving powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There will be up to an additional £500m of spending power for the Northern Ireland Executive to support the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement, with the Government also reinforcing its commitment to the devolution of corporation tax.
The Government will legislate to remove the requirement for the Welsh Assembly to hold a referendum in order to implement the Welsh rates of income tax. The Government is also introducing a floor in the level of relative funding provided to the Welsh Government at 115% of comparable spending per head in England, and has committed, in principle, to contribute to an infrastructure fund for the Cardiff region.
The Scotland Bill, which contains significant tax and spending powers, has completed its House of Commons stages and is on track to receive Royal Assent in early 2016.
Local government reform in England
The ‘devolution revolution’ sets out a new deal for local government. It requires local authorities to make efficiency savings, but in return offers them new levers of power to generate growth for their area.
The Government will allow local government to keep the rates they collect from business, give councils the power to cut business rates to boost growth, and give elected city-wide mayors the power to levy a business rates premium for local infrastructure projects, provided they have the support of the local business community.
The Chancellor reiterated the Government’s commitment to building a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, pledging to spend £13bn on transport in the North over the Parliament. The Government will also invest in world class scientific research and support further Northern Powerhouse trade missions to key emerging economies.
VAT on sanitary products
While the Government makes the case in the EU for a zero rate of VAT for sanitary products, a new £15m annual fund equivalent to the VAT raised each year on sanitary products will support women’s charities. The fund will run over the course of this Parliament, or until the UK can apply a zero rate.
The Government intends to introduce measures to end the right to cash compensation for minor whiplash injuries. This aims to end the cycle in which responsible motorists pay higher premiums to cover false claims by others. The Government expects the insurance industry to pass an average saving of £40 to £50 per motor insurance policy on to consumers.