Fiscal Phil

With austerity firmly behind us (what?), the Chancellor had a bit of slack to play with in the budget this week (the OBR disagrees, although 2019 growth forecasts were raised from 1.3% to 1.6%). He chose to do so by making above inflation budget increases for the NHS and a reform of universal credit. However, in other areas expect further cuts. On the agenda for real estate were: the abolition of PFI, the limitation of lettings relief, and the combined impact of (a) business rates relief (b) a ‘Future High Streets Fund’ and (c) a Digital Services Tax on the high street (in fact probably not that great, unless you are a small business). Consultation, we are told, is to follow on a reform of CPO and the Use Classes Order, which will likely facilitate change of use and transformation of outmoded assets. Of lesser, but noteworthy importance, the Chancellor announced new mandatory business rates relief for public lavatories ‘so that local authorities can at last relieve themselves’. The budget feels like a belated acknowledgement of the manifest change that is happening to the UK’s high streets, and one that will support it on its journey rather than halt it. Brexit remains the elephant in the room. The budget has been predicated on achieving some form of deal with the EU. Whilst this remains likely, a no-deal outcome would presumably mean ripping up the budget and starting again. Take a look at my colleagues’ comments on the budget here.