EELGA sees limited good news in the Spring Budget

The East of England Local Government Association (EELGA) had hoped for additional support for the region and for the sector in the 2024 Spring Budget and this was not forthcoming.

EELGA highlights that investment and support for the region’s core infrastructure is required to unlock significant economic growth potential. It also said it is disappointed that funding commitments were not made for the desperately needed Ely and Haughley rail enhancement schemes.

The lack of affordable, good quality housing is one of the biggest challenges the East of England faces, and it is having an enormous impact on the financial resilience of many of our councils. Recent research by the District Councils Network showed local housing authorities are spending an average of 10% of their revenue on temporary accommodation for homeless households.

Although greater flexibilities for councils in their use of Right to Buy receipts announced in the budget are to be welcomed, we had hoped the Government would recognise the significant pressures placed on councils by increases in homelessness and temporary accommodation costs.

EELGA, alongside the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the East of England will be launching the ‘Opportunity East’ report at a Parliamentary Reception on June 11 to shine a light on the scale of the economic potential and how greater support from the Government in the region’s infrastructure and skills can turbo charge the nation’s prosperity.

Cllr Matthew Hicks, Chair of EELGA and Leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “We believe that the scale of opportunity in the East of England is still unrecognised with a lack of investment in our core infrastructure. I look forward to launching the ‘Opportunity East’ report this June which will shine a light on our significant potential and how investment from the Government will achieve substantial economic return for the country.

“It should also be recognised that our region’s councils continue to work tirelessly to ensure the efficient use of their stretched resources to deliver the best possible outcomes for communities. EELGA will continue to make the case for greater support from the Government to deliver vital public services.”

EELGA said it is positive the Government announced additional funding in the Spring Budget to support growth in the life sciences, creative industries and green energy sectors, all specific assets in the East of England economy. Greater investment from the Government and private sector in Cambridge is also welcome news. As is the additional regeneration support for Thetford, Harlow, Wisbech, Canvey Island and Kings Lynn.

While the organisation also welcomed the continuation of the Household Support Fund for a further six months, this will still leave some uncertainty for the winter months and beyond.

EELGA also recognises the investment in services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. However, a fundamental overhaul of the funding regime for councils is required. Councils in the East of England are particularly disadvantaged by the current system, receiving the lowest amount of funding per person of any English region.

Devolution of powers and funding to local leaders is key to delivering efficient, well-targeted support for local communities. No new deals were announced for our region in the Spring Budget. The East of England stands ready to work with the Government to take advantage of future devolution.

Cllr Hicks added: “We welcome announcements that the most vulnerable in society will continue to benefit from the Household Support Fund and that much-needed investment for special educational needs and disabilities will be brought forward. There will also be more support for some of our region’s biggest economic success stories and regeneration for some of our towns.”