The 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review

The 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review

In the wake of the first Comprehensive Spending Review since 2010, ResPublica responds with our analysis of the key changes that George Osborne’s announcement will herald.

City Devolution

ResPublica is “leading the field in devolution” according to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clark. Building on our seminal Devo Max – Devo Manc report last year, ResPublica has published three further calls for increased devolution to cities around the UK in 2015: The Missing Multipliers; Power, People and Places; and Restoring Britain’s City States.

We welcome the Chancellor’s confirmation that cities and councils will be allowed to retain 100% of their business rates. This could provide a step-change in the incentives for local authorities to improve their areas and invest in the proceeds from doing so. However, there is still far to go. Devolution has so far focused on the larger city regions, and ResPublica would like to see deals struck with smaller cities and counties as soon as possible to enable them to benefit from devolved powers, too. The Chancellor also did not heed calls to devolve property taxes today, but this will be essential if the devolution revolution is to fulfil its potential.

Tom Follett said:

“More autonomy and powers mean our great cities can reinvest the gains from taking the initiative and improving lives for their citizens, so the Chancellor is moving in the right direction. The commitment to continue devolving transport powers to the city-regions is positive and will enable them to get to work on improving productivity. Now the Government needs to focus on ensuring the benefits of devolution and place-based public services are felt in the non-metropolitan regions too”.


Heralded as “essential reading for the Treasury” by Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Health Committee Chair, ResPublica released The Care Collapse in November 2015. Flagging a potential loss of 37,000 beds in the residential care sector, and £3bn funding black hole, the report contributed to keen media interest in how social care would fare in the Spending Review.

“The Chancellor has responded to a growing chorus of concern at the very real and imminent risks to the adult social care system” said Emily Crawford, Principal Researcher.

Measures include:

  • A social care precept, an optional 2% rise in council tax hypothecated for social care services. This could raise £2billion by 2019/20
  • Require all local authorities to develop local integrated health and care plans by 2017, for implementation by 2020
  • From 2017 the Spending Review makes available social care funds for local government, rising to £1.5 billion by 2019-20, to be included in an improved Better Care Fund.

“Our research published in The Care Collapse showed that by 2020 there could be a £1.1bn funding gap between demand for and funding of residential care, of which the National Living Wage obligations are about a third. If residential care homes were to collapse due to the funding gap, and those patients flow through to NHS services, the NHS could need to find £3bn for extra beds.

We are pleased that the real pressures faced by the residential care sector faces are recognised – the precept is specifically targeted at  ensuring councils can’increase the prices they pay for care, including to cover the costs of the NLW’. However our concern remains that the precept is discretionary. Not all councils will, or will be able to, implement it.

The BCF funding to aid integration is welcome. We are yet to see the intended scale of diversion from hospitals achieved as a result of this approach.

We fear that integration efforts will not deliver sufficient reductions in demand on adult social and residential care quickly enough, nor will the council tax precept ensure sufficient funding to limit exit by residential care providers and that residents will flow through to NHS services.”

Housing & Planning

ResPublica has been vocal over the last year in calling for an increase in housing alongside genuine place-building and community access. Devo Home recommended a devolution of housing powers to kickstart development, and was lauded as “an excellent report” by Shadow Housing Minister Roberta Blackman-Woods MP. A Community Right to Beauty, featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, argued for beautiful localities to be made available to all communities via the planning process.

We welcome the ambition shown in the Spending Review to unlock greater housing supply – and in particular to improve the affordability of housing. Policies like the London Help to Buy scheme and the discount associated with Starter Homes do have the potential to open home ownership to those who would otherwise struggle to buy at the market rate. We feel however that delivery and community engagement remain key themes that the Review failed to address.

Edward Douglas said:

“Annual housing starts totalled 137,490 in the 12 months to September 2015, down by 1 per cent compared with the year before and still far short of the over 200,000 new homes per year it is estimated is needed to meet new demand as well as the backlog from years of undersupply. Planning reforms to release public sector land, and unused commercial and industrial land, to free up developable sites are welcome, but without any mechanisms to ensure the delivery of new build on that land will ultimately be of limited value”.

Duncan Sim said:

“Community empowerment should be at the heart of reforms to the planning system. Research shows that support for new housing can be significantly affected by factors such as the popularity of the design of the proposed new build, so offering a chance for genuine community engagement with the planning process represents a vital tool with which to raise development levels. Government should be looking to extend Neighbourhood Planning and the provisions open to people to engage with the planning system at the local level beyond the appeals process, a theme which was notably absent in the planning reforms announced today”.


ResPublica’s flagship conference in 2016, Finding True North, is the next step forward for the Northern Powerhouse agenda; placing identity, culture, collaboration and innovation at its heart. With Greg Clark MP, Lisa Nandy MP, Dan Jarvis MP and Danny Boyle all confirmed to speak, it promises to be a landmark event to continue ResPublica’s work on the North of the UK and devolution.

Communications Manager Elliott Mears said:

“Expanding the Northern Powerhouse to include Northern Ireland is a natural evolution of the policy, and its inclusion within the Chancellor’s Spending Review sends all the right messages about its success so far. But expansion won’t address the urgent need for tangible change in the North. If the UK’s economy is to be truly rebalanced, we need deeper rejuvenation fuelled by real commitment across the board including communities, cultural and civic institutions, and people to foster a greater Northern society.”

“Northern Powerhouse cities receiving devolution deals will unlock growth and create jobs via news powers over transport, skills and the local economy, but the focus is already almost entirely economic. We need a bolder vision of a North that reaches beyond the economic benefits, cementing the North instead as a powerhouse of innovation at the heart of a cultural renaissance. As the Chancellor rightly pointed out, we need to building on the North’s influence by investing in the North’s cultural assets, and while we welcome the £26m increased funding for projects such as the Great Exhibition of the North and Legacy Fund, there is a huge amount more to do to prove that the policy is more than a political move.”

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