Julia Unwin responds to speeches on the economy at the Conservative Party Conference

Responding to speeches from Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid, Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said:

“Boosting productivity, bringing jobs and investment to parts of the UK which have been left behind and providing stability for businesses and communities in the run up to Brexit all have huge potential to support growth and improve people’s standards of living, so it’s extremely encouraging to see the Chancellor focus on these points in his speech. Many of the areas which receive the highest EU funding are less prosperous and in greater need of investment and jobs, so linking these together would make the most of available funding.

“Solving the productivity problem is absolutely key to the UK’s future prosperity. Despite record employment many families have struggled to improve their living standards as the gap between their household incomes and their basic costs has stayed high. Today, more than half of the 13.5 million people living in poverty in the UK live in a household with at least one person in work. To solve this, the UK needs strong, secure businesses which create good jobs and offer their staff real opportunities to get on at work. Phillip Hammond’s pledge to help business boost productivity is a vital part of this.

“The Chancellor’s focus on closing the growth gap between London and other major cities is welcome, but the Government must not forget about people who live outside these large centres. Many of the places which have seen the slowest growth in recent years are smaller cities and towns within the investment centre of the Northern Powerhouse. The Government must make sure that all parts of the UK are supported to enable every resident to share in the UK’s prosperity.

“European funding plays an important part in mitigating the effects of poverty in some of the poorest areas of the country, so it’s good to hear Mr Hammond pledge to honour existing allocations until 2020. With political energy focussed on the process of leaving the EU it would be easy for the underlying concerns which contributed to the vote to take a back seat. The Government’s promise to provide funding will help to give businesses and communities stability until 2020, but we will need a comprehensive strategy on how to increase opportunity for those who feel left behind and boost regional economies after Brexit to provide stability beyond this.
 
“Solving the housing crisis is one of the main political challenges of our time. The Government’s move to take a more active role in building homes and getting them onto the market faster will help many people who are struggling to afford a secure place to live.  But getting houses onto the market faster is only part of the battle. To make a real difference to people struggling to find a secure, affordable home the Government must make sure that the homes being built include ones for genuinely affordable rent as well as for sale, or they will risk leaving everyone who isn’t in a position to buy behind. The figures announced today still fall below the Government’s own target of one million new homes by 2020, so we will need to see further action on increasing the numbers in the full housing plan later this year to avoid a lack of new homes making problems worse.”