There were several conspicuous absences, with no mention of housing, Brexit, trains, the environment, the North West, and only a passing reference to the Northern Powerhouse.
The Budget was light on tangible announcements for the property sector, and mainly consisted of defining pots of money to be invested out of a £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund announced in November’s Autumn Statement.
Even so, the complete lack of a passing reference to the UK’s housing crisis, or any of the Government’s various housing initiatives such as Help to Buy, raised eyebrows across the sector.
While the Government released a topline Housing White Paper last month, at least some endorsement of the broad proposals outlined by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid in the report had been expected.
In the words of online estate agent eMoov’s chief executive Russell Quirk: “There was a lot of focus on the NHS and how the Conservatives are ‘the party of the NHS’. Does NHS stand for No Housing Speech?”
Hammond avoided the word ‘Brexit’, although made a reference to the UK “as it prepares to leave the EU”.
While the Chancellor name-checked economic improvements in Yorkshire, the North East and Wales, one of the few regions that never got a specific mention was the North West. The Northern Powerhouse was only referred to in passing, in the context of the Chancellor preparing to publish a report on the Midlands Engine tomorrow.
The Government has denied that it is backing away from the Northern Powerhouse agenda which was so strongly advocated by Hammond’s predecessor, George Osborne. However, Hammond’s reticent style was a noticeable step away from the copious mentions of the North so common in Osborne’s budget speeches.