The Academies Financial Handbook is updated annually by the Department for Education and the Education and Skills Funding Agency; it contains a number of governance requirements for academy trusts.
Two areas that are included in these needs are social infrastructure:
- Housing; and
There is no doubt that we are expecting some announcements on housing in the Autumn Statement, but we hope that it won’t just cover home ownership. Most experts in this area believe that the last Government was wrong to focus less on social housing as social and affordable housing is just as important. There is a growing problem of homelessness that needs to be addressed as well as working families struggling to find affordable housing.
More good quality and well-planned housing (whatever its tenure) should have a positive effect on reducing crime and improving health, as a consequence this would help to reduce the amount being spent by the Government on these areas.
One of the limiting factors to building more houses is the lack of appropriately skilled workers. While the apprenticeship levy could go some way towards filling this skills gap, the Chancellor could address this in the Autumn Statement. If there is not an increase in the training of people for the construction industry, there is a good chance that we will never adequately address housing insufficiency.
As well as a scarcity of housing, parents still struggle to get places for their children in schools because of a shortage of places and some schools requiring investment. With more housing, there will be a requirement for more schools. In this eventuality, the Chancellor will need to address these concerns too.
The Chancellor could use the Autumn Statement to illustrate to the country that the “establishment” has listened to the people, and will invest in infrastructure in order to help those citizens who are disaffected.
This doesn’t mean that investment in transport and energy infrastructure is not important, but a focus on this rather than housing and schools by the Chancellor will not satisfy the immediate needs of many of those who voted for Brexit.
Whilst it is clear that the shortage of housing and schools needs to be addressed, where will the money come from? The UK still has a huge amount of debt and if interest rates and inflation increase then so will the debt. Is it time for the Government to use more private finance?
On the 7th November HM Treasury announced the appointment of a new Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Head of Project Finance of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority. The Government website said that:
“The move reflects the importance the government places on securing private sector investment to fund the country’s infrastructure….”
We are all waiting in anticipation as to what the approach of the new Chancellor will be. Let’s hope it is not a missed opportunity!
If you would like more information about the issues discussed, please contact Jon Coane.
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