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What the Autumn Statement 2023 had to say about Cambridge – and what Cambridge had to say about it

By: Paul Brackley

Published: 17:45, 22 November 2023

Updated: 21:05, 22 November 2023

The Chancellor has unveiled his Autumn Statement - with a 2 per cent National Insurance cut, changes to pensions, welfare, the minimum wage and Universal Credit.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt leaves 11 Downing Street to deliver his Autumn Statement. Picture: PA

Our at-a-glance guide to what was announced can be found here - and it included £2m to address water scarcity in Cambridge and £3m to explore the introduction of a development corporation.

That follows Michael Gove’s announcements earlier this year that he wants to supercharge Cambridge growth and deliver 250,000 homes in the region under a project called ‘Cambridge 2040’.

Here’s what the Autumn Statement had to say about Cambridge:

Cambridge will get £2m to address water scarcity issues, the Autumn Statement 2023 pledged
The Autumn Statement 2023 promised money for the Cambridge Delivery Group to deliver new homes

Sam Davies, who recently stood down as an independent Cambridge city councillor, suggested the government had its priorities all wrong, tweeting: “£2m for water scarcity but £3m to bring in a Dev Corp and a share of £32m to unblock planning backlog tells you all you need to know about their priorities.”

And Cllr Naomi Bennett, a Green Party city councillor, was equally unimpressed, writing on X (formerly Twitter): “So pay a few consultants, take planning out of the hands of councillors who are answerable to local residents and pretend they can't hear when we ask about money for our much neglected flood defences. Cambridge is just going to be collateral damage in this Ponzi scheme.”


Below, we assess more of the reaction to the Autumn Statement.

Cambridge MP says tax cuts are really a slowing of increases

Cambridge’s Labour MP Daniel Zeichner said there was “a lot of talk about tax cuts” but said it was “important to remember that tax has risen massively over the past few years, all whilst public services crumble around us”.

He concluded: “Anything labelled a cut is actually just slowing the rate of tax increases!”

Culture secretary pleased by help for visual effects industry

Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary and Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire, was pleased by measures to drive investment into visual effects industry.

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

She said: “Businesses spent £6.3bn making film and high-end TV in the UK last year and competitive tax reliefs are a huge reason why filmmakers flock here.


“In the Spring Budget we extended these and I’m delighted the Autumn Statement confirmed a new VFX relief to attract even more investment.”

Thanking the Chancellor for “agreeing to review the evidence on public R&D spend for the creative industries,” she noted: “The Barbie movie, made in Britain, added £80m to the economy and created 600-plus jobs.”

Eastern Powerhouse miffed by lack of attention for East of England

James Palmer, chair of the Eastern Powerhouse, said: “So, another statement from the Chancellor comes and goes and still the East is virtually invisible in government policy.

Eastern Powerhouse chair James Palmer. Picture: Keith Heppell

“Whilst the Chancellor lavished praise on constituencies across the country, his sole mention of the East was for housing development in Cambridge. Hardly reflective of the importance the east of England as a contributor to the UK economy as a whole.

“The Eastern Powerhouse supports initiatives to help grow business and support the self employed but it really is time that government recognised the east for the economy powerhouse it is.

“While initiatives to help life science start-ups grow and national funds for science, technology and energy may find their way to the East eventually, there are to be no further investment zones for the East – a quite staggering omission, given the geographic spread and population of the region.

“So, while the East contributes 8.5 per cent of gross domestic product, is a net contributor to the Treasury and has a larger population than Scotland, we still seem to be invisible to the Treasury. The Eastern Powerhouse will make sure the Chancellor is informed of our disappointment.”

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson backs further devolution – on the day report criticises him for “significant failure” in leadership

The Labour mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson, welcomed talk of further devolution in the Autumn Statement on the day a report gave details of how he breached the mayoral code of conduct in relation to civility and disrepute, and failed to take action amid allegations of bullying and a toxic culture. It described a “significant failure” of leadership.

Dr Nik Johnson, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. Picture: Keith Heppell

Dr Johnson said: “I, along with so many in our region, have been eagerly awaiting today’s Autumn Statement, especially with regard to further government commitments to Government’s previous pledges on Cambridge 2040 and Network North.

“But firstly devolution, I wholeheartedly welcome today’s commitment to further devolution and the publication of a new framework for Combined Authorities to take that next step. The framework is a result of a lot of work and collaboration between government and all of the mayoral Combined Authorities, I’m proud to say that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority have been a part of that effort.

“Earlier this year, Harvard University published a report: Why hasn’t UK regional policy worked? Within that report it made a strong case of deeper skills devolution and an acknowledgement that skills policy must align with local business needs and industry strategy.

“We're proud of our track record in skills. Partnership working and devolution has allowed us to play a key role in establishing the award-winning ARU Peterborough, which opened its doors last year. The university has worked with local employers to co-design it’s courses, which placed in in a further education cold sport, prides its ability to recruit students from a Peterborough postcode. This means local industry is receiving the pool of talent and skills it requires, and local residents have access to good, quality careers, in a thriving economy. Not only is it true levelling up in action, but regeneration done right and with the community at its heart.

“We have proved that we can excel at delivering devolved skills funding. In the past three years our region has increased adult education participation, against a backdrop of national decline. We have achieved this by targeting further education cold spots, the most deprived areas in our region and seldom engaged cohorts. This has included diverting 50% of our adult education budget to deprived areas, fully funding English as a second language courses and are providing bursaries for care leavers.

“We will continue to work with government, local partners and other mayoral Combined Authorities to take up the option for further devolution in the future.

“Onto Cambridge 2040, while I am supportive of the concept of Cambridge 2040 and of Government’s ambitions to stimulate high growth, making one of our cities a global science superpower. I like many residents remain concerned that the resources and infrastructure must be put in place to ensure our systems are not overburdened.

“I very much hope government will not contradict that ambition of local and devolved decision making in the delivery of Cambridge 2040, with today’s announcement supporting a Cambridge Delivery Group. I, and the Combined Authority, will continue to offer our placemaking expertise to make Cambridge 2040 the overwhelming success it can be.

“Additionally, we are all very well aware of the water scarcity constraints which are choking Cambridge’s growth ambitions. I welcome the news that Government will be allocating £2 million to address this issue, and welcome the opportunity to work with Government to identify further resources which can be utilized to tackle the issue.

“It was somewhat disappointing to see that still, no further details have been given regarding what the Prime Minister’s announcements regarding Network North actually mean to our region. Upgrading Ely Area Capacity Enhancements (EACE) and A10 and A1139 improvements has been met warmly by residents in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and I had hoped to see funding commitments to these within the Autumn Statement.

There is still much to unpack from today’s Autumn Statement, and much to work towards. One thing I am incredibly clear on, the Combined Authority will continue to work hard for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and work with others to ensure our region is a great place to live, work, learn and visit.

Autumn Statement 2023 – the key points

Ian Sollom says Chancellor has prioritised headlines over health

The Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for the new constituency of St Neots and Mid Cambridgeshire, Ian Sollom, said: “With his Autumn Statement Jeremy Hunt has shown how little the Conservatives care about the everyday struggles of people in St Neots and Mid Cambridgeshire trying to access NHS services. There was simply nothing on offer in the Chancellor’s statement to help those who can’t get an appointment with a GP or dentist, stuck on a waiting list for diagnosis or surgery, or even unable to get their medicines.

“Instead, the Chancellor fools no one with a headline-grabbing reduction in National Insurance after repeated failures to increase tax rate thresholds have dragged millions into paying more tax than ever.

“Meanwhile, a paltry £2million for dealing with water scarcity in Cambridgeshire is tokenistic and will do little to accelerate the investment in new water infrastructure we so desperately need. That the government is pushing ahead with a Cambridge Development Corporation while failing to offer anything meaningful to address the fundamentals of water and transport says everything about how the government view the area as a resource to be exploited.”

Regional CBI says interventions will help fire up the economy

Richard Tunnicliffe, CBI East of England Director, said: “With tough decisions to be made, the Chancellor was right to prioritise ‘game-changing’ interventions that will fire the economy.

“While the move on National Insurance will give hard-pressed households some much needed breathing room, making full capital expensing a permanent feature of the tax system can be transformational for accelerating growth and improving living standards in the long-term.

“Helping firms to unleash pent-up investment is critical to getting momentum into the economy. Making full expensing permanent will give firms the stability they need to press on with decisions on investment whilst keeping the UK at the top table internationally for investment incentives.

“Moves to speed up planning and grid connectivity should also bolster business confidence to invest in high growth areas like green technologies, renewable energy and advanced manufacturing.”

Industry pleased by measures to help life sciences

Steve Bates, CEO of the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA), said: “Life science spin-outs, start-ups and scale-ups are key drivers of the UK’s innovation-based economy and crucial for discovering and developing new medicines to save lives in the NHS. The UK is home to a third of life science start-ups founded in Europe since 2012 and companies like them are responsible for nearly two-thirds of medicines being developed globally.

“Today’s Autumn Statement by the Chancellor has announced a significant package of investment and support to help turbocharge this innovative industry in the UK.

“The government’s £520million investment in life sciences manufacturing will ensure more of those medicines being developed are also produced here, resulting in jobs across the UK and export revenues.

“Increased flexibility in the tax relief scheme for R&D intensive companies will make a meaningful difference to company growth, job creation and accelerating the delivery of new medicines to patients.

“The Chancellor’s strategic reforms to the pensions industry will unlock that opportunity to give British citizens a better retirement income whilst creating rewarding jobs in growing UK life science companies. The British Business Bank is well placed to provide a dedicated fund so pensions can easily invest in innovative companies and the new Venture Capital Fellowship scheme, which BIA has helped develop, will grow our investment ecosystem to ensure pension funds now and in the future have a large pool of life science focused expert UK-based investors to call on.”


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