There was lots of good news for our region in the Budget 2018. We welcome an additional £23m through the Transforming Cities Fund; we’ve already allocated millions to kick-start improving our busiest routes – including rail, road and walking / cycling, and this extra funding will help us to speed up this work and do even more to improve transport for our residents
The Government also announced £90m to create up to three new Future Mobility Areas in the UK. We plan to bid for this additional funding to trial new mobility solutions, looking at things like frictionless payment options, and increasing our use of transport data to benefit residents. Our constituent councils should also be able to secure further investment in local roads announced by the Government, including funding for potholes.
Good news too that, as part of plans to support high streets, the Government is making changes to business rates. This will reduce rates by one-third for retail properties with a rateable value below £51,000, benefiting up to 90% of retail properties. The reduction will be for 2 years from April 2019. WECA and its constituent councils will be fully compensated for loss of income as a result of this so it will not affect our budget. This will also support WECA’s proposal to invest up to £10m in boosting our region’s high streets, with three pilot projects – one in Bath and North East Somerset, one in Bristol and one in South Gloucestershire.
We’re currently working on our West of England Local Industrial Strategy so we also welcome news of £1.6bn of additional research and development funding to support the delivery of the Industrial Strategy nationally.
We also welcome announcements aimed at stimulating more house-building including:
- Abolishing the Housing Revenue Account cap that controls local authority borrowing for house building.
- An additional £500m allocated to the Housing Infrastructure Fund (to which local authorities can apply), unlocking a further 650,000 homes.
- Further investment in strategic partnerships with housing associations – WECA has launched a strategic partnership with two housing associations