Yesterday’s Budget hailed yet more good news for Birmingham, with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street receiving a special mention during the speech.
Phillip Hammond emphasised the government’s commitment to ensuring the ‘Midlands Engine’ would fire on all cylinders, with dedicated funding to further improve the region’s transport infrastructure.
The importance of a dedicated mayor for Birmingham’s future growth was underlined by the tangible Budget pledges. Through the second devolution deal for the city, Mr Street will be able to progress with his Housing First agenda, as well as investing £250m into the Midlands Metro network – providing valuable connections across the region. The city has also secured a key role – and investment – in the development of driverless cars, with Birmingham recognised as a technical hub in the evolution of this ground-breaking technology.
The Chancellor certainly gave Birmingham reasons to be cheerful yesterday and with Andy Street in the city’s corner, this can only continue on its upward trajectory.
The real meat of Phillip Hammond’s speech focused on housing, most of which had been assumed in advance. But, one of the most significant measures came as something of a surprise, with the government abolishing stamp duty for first-time-buyers on the initial £300,000 of purchases up to £500,000. This was a bold move by Phillip Hammond, opening up the opportunity for the next generation to realise their property ownership or investment dreams. It also handed landlords an early Christmas present, with prices set to increase by 0.3% as a result of this move – according to forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
Clamping down on land-banking has been long overdue and this Budget saw the government taking action in this area. This issue has created a log jam for development in many key areas across the UK – including Birmingham – and contributed significantly to the chronic housing shortage we now face. Encouragingly, a relatively swift timetable was outlined for this review, with Sir Oliver Letwin’s recommendations earmarked to be given next Spring. Compared to other regional cities, Birmingham is under-developed in terms of city-centre living so this review could hold the key to unlocking its full potential for the benefit of investors.
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