Autumn Budget: our experts give their reactions

27 October, 2021

Our experts give their reaction to the Autumn Budget. 

Business rates

Ryan Jones and Mike Hampton-Riddington, partners in business rates: "As an industry we were expecting no significant measures to alleviate the burden of business rates, so the announcement in the Budget today is more welcome than expected although not as fundamental as hoped and certainly not in line with a 'fairer simpler tax system' that the chancellor promised at the beginning of his speech."

"Nevertheless, we are pleased to see commitment to increasing the frequency of revaluations to 3 years mooted in the fundamental review earlier this year. However, the practice will be in the pudding and we are not convinced this isn't a trojan horse to make the appeals system more difficult behind the smoke and mirrors, and we say this because confidence in the whole change process is at an all time low. We also welcome the introduction of the business improvement relief and cuts for green initiatives and the freezing in the UBR and the 50% relief discount for the retail and leisure sectors but, whilst welcomed , for many will not go far enough when the high street has such a crucial recovery period right now that so much more could have been done to leverage."

ESG

John Gravett, head of real estate management: "With COP26 right around the corner, we would have expected more in the budget to provide for supporting sustainability targets and future proofing against the impacts of climate change. Earlier this year, funds were put aside to help private companies develop better EVs and rapid charging but nothing has been mentioned about the infrastructure and connecting charging points with real estate needs. This is something that really needs to be elevated if we are to get a potential 5m EVs on the roads by 2030. Interest in these vehicles has peaked in recent months thanks to the fuel panic seen in early October, but to capitalise on this potential demand, we must look at the provision of charging points in the right locations as part of a UK wide strategy. While raising fuel tax is not the only answer, we were surprised this was omitted today from the budget - there needs to be a carrot as well as a stick and realistic alternatives to petrol/diesel cars."

Ian Paton, head of Oxford project and building consultancy: "We have EPC targets in place but no real incentivisation to meet them, unless selling, for homeowners. We would have liked to have seen more initiatives that help provide a pathway. We were already informed about the Govt subsidies for greener energy for consumers but the £5,000 subsidies to make heat pump installation comparative to the cost of a new boiler will allow for only 90,000 grants out of 27.8 million households in the UK, which is less than 0.5%. We must also be realistic and assume that those who can least afford to replace their boilers will still be priced out meaning that these grants will be most likely to support those who can already more easily afford new boilers, further excluding the impoverished from greener practices. The policy still neglects improving insulation for properties and the EPC process till encourages gas boiler replacement. The SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure) as the process that calculates the rating for EPCs also needs to change; currently it is too biased towards cheapest cost (hence more gas boilers), but combatting climate change requires an investment in everyone’s future now. More thinking is needed to level up sustainability in this case but nevertheless it's a start."

Flood defence

Ian Paton: "With flooding a constant threat in the UK, we would have liked to have seen some measures in the budget to put aside funds for future-proofing given that new flood risk areas are emerging all the time. It's not good enough to assume that we can replace what is damaged with insurance funds, we need to future proof proactively and that needs funding."

Planning

Raoul Veevers, head of planning: "The confirmation of the £1.8bn fund to support the development of more sustainable brownfield land for 1m homes is welcomed, even if this only works out at just under £12k per property. This will hopefully be achieved in conjunction with significant public transport funding to boost the accessibility of these locations, which will possibly address at least one of reasons why this land has not been developed to date. There is of course some scepticism as to how house builders have not been able to unlock these sites before now, but digitisation will make it easier to identify this land and its potential across the UK. Fundamentally we need these homes to be built in the right locations with the appropriate supporting infrastructure."

Telecoms

Darren Zitren, head of network estate management: "In order for the UK to be truly successful at levelling up, we need to see consistent and quality connectivity and effective gigabit roll out. With that said, it is both disappointing and surprising that no further significant provision for increasing or accelerating this has been announced in today's budget, particularly given the greater strain on broadband and fibre post pandemic. Despite there being 'targets' there is currently both a lack of investment to support local authorities in driving the connectivity agenda and in improving not-spots that, frankly, in the 21st century should not even be a topic of conversation much less a reality. It is time that connectivity is seen as the levelling up accelerator it really is - in terms of jobs, the regional economy and in terms of social welfare and education. We understand the need to be careful on costs post-pandemic but this is a false economy if productivity is hampered further by less than optimal connectivity."

 Residential agency

James Hyman, head of residential agency: “It is disappointing that the Chancellor has not reached out further to help private landlords, many of whom have struggled through the pandemic, being hit by lower rents, longer void periods and the extension of notice periods to six months. We need to support these landlords, who are doing so much to assist the government to solve the UK’s housing crisis right now, with no support or tax relief in return.  With a 3% surcharge to enter the market and the looming fear of increased capital gains tax on the horizon, what incentive is there to being a private landlord right now?”