Our February review anticipates three of the issues to look out for in the impending Budget this week – missions, local government finance, and perspectives on shifts to greener, healthier transport.
“Missions, missions, missions…” – from the twelve missions of the February 2022 Levelling Up White Paper (LUWP) to Labour’s February 2023 five missions for the next government, the trend to framing transformational goals as “mission-based government” seems to have caught the national political imagination. But what does this mean for local places? And a rare disagreement between Mike and I on the difference between a mission and a long term ambition…Look out for how the LUWP missions play in this first post-Johnson March Budget, and whether the chancellor is going to announce any new ones…
Is LED a solution or a contributor to the current desperate financial times for many local authorities? Local revenue raising can be used to justify and fund much of council LED agendas. But we need to get better at commercially-driven projects, and at managing financial risk locally. And, in the light of recent reports of the Treasury further restricting the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) financial flexibilities, we need to look at how the budget increases or restricts local and combined authority access to resources.
What do responses to London’s ULEZ tell us? Finally we looked at the opposition to the London Mayor’s proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) from some Outer London Boroughs, M25 county councils, and even parts of Government. There are technical arguments about the costs, benefits and delivery of both clean air and congestion charging zones – and some of these can be genuinely difficult to resolve. For instance, the hypothesis that London’s ULEZ is an unfair ‘tax’ on low income drivers compelled to drive cheap but polluting cars to their jobs in London tries to set sustainability against inclusion in terms of city and regional development models. It will be fascinating to see how green transport and relief for petrol and diesel-guzzling private car owners plays this week.
In a sense the last discussion brought us full circle back to missions. LED and placemaking is ultimately about helping inform the difficult choices that have to be made in managing complex issues in overlapping administrative and economic geographies. Missions will almost always be contested. The question is how far mission-focus is moderated to build consensus, and how far it is pursued single-mindedly in the face of opposition. And in terms of issues like devolution, levelling up, and decarbonisation, perhaps this is a final perspective against which the Budget should be assessed..