Redrawing the economic map seems to have overlooked the South West says Colliers regional head

Jo Edwards, Head of Colliers International’s Bristol Office.

The head of the Bristol office of commercial property advisors Colliers has spoken of her concern that the South West was overlooked in the 2021 Budget.

Jo Edwards, head of the South West and South Wales, said: “The Chancellor’s stated aim of ‘redrawing the economic map’ is very welcome, but unfortunately this budget lacked significant measures to achieve this aim in the South West.

“The announcement of Plymouth and the Solent as locations designated for two of eight new freeports was good to see, as was the inclusion of Swindon and Bournemouth among 45 towns to share £1 billion of funding from a new Towns Deals fund for levelling up.

“However, the bulk of support in the budget was focused on the north of England, and it was disappointing that the eight freeport sites announced did not include the ambitious bid for a Great Western Freeport based around Bristol Port, the most centrally-located deep water port in the UK.”

Dr Walter Boettcher, UK Chief Economist at Colliers, said the budget contained ‘much to be optimistic about’ for the UK property sector.

“The Chancellor’s contention that this was a budget to support an investment led recovery is supported by numerous measures to break the logjam of business uncertainty and renewed investment. New capital allowances, especially extension of loss carry-back to three years, and a new 130% ‘super deduction’ on plant & machinery investments, including a 50% first-year allowance supports this contention, but his regional agenda looks even more decisive.

“The budget’s ‘rabbit out of the hat’ was an announcement of a new National Infrastructure Bank in Leeds with £12 billion in capitalisation to support a ‘green industrial revolution’. Likewise, announcement of a new HM Treasury campus in Darlington, freeports across the UK with 100% capital allowances, as well as a plethora of investments across all regions, suggests that this budget was not about London. In fact, London is only ‘name-checked’ once in the 107-page budget report and in connection with promoting it as a leading venue for global voluntary carbon markets for high-quality offsets.

“In looking through the 33 regional projects detailed on page 56 of the Budget 2021 Report, the targeting goes beyond the relatively new local combined authorities and includes Growth Deals in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The evidence suggests that the Government is seeking to begin delivering on its election manifesto of ‘levelling up’ despite severe constraints on the public purse.

“Of fundamental importance will be the role of private capital in achieving government aims. In this respect, worries about missteps in the budget undermining business confidence at a crucial moment in the UK recovery proved unfounded.

“For UK real estate, residential and commercial, there was much to be optimistic about given new housing market stimulus and only a modest change to capital gains through freezing the allowance threshold, but the key budget support looks to be linked to supporting the fledgling recovery in business confidence.”