Press Releases

Timid and underwhelming: New Economics Foundation’s response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

A narrow set of measures that fail Britain’s left behind

Marc Stears, Chief Executive of the Foundation, said:

The Chancellor has failed to rise to the most urgent economic challenge of modern times. In the wake of the Brexit vote, our abandoned regions need more than a timid and underwhelming set of policy prescriptions — they need bold action to give them real control over their lives and futures.”

This was a Budget that should have brought big change, starting in the communities who need it most. Today was the time to kick-start a new industrial strategy, reform our dysfunctional banks, and support those who have been consistently failed by Britain’s broken economy.”

But our new Chancellor has instead chosen to tinker in the margins. It now falls to communities themselves to push for the transformative change they need to build a better future.”


On the government’s proposed infrastructure investments, Olivier Vardakoulias, Economist at the Foundation, said:

The Chancellor’s pledged £23bn infrastructure investment fund is nowhere near enough to reverse years of decline and address the UK’s chronic regional imbalance. We need real investment in left-behind communities to put people in control.

The productivity crisis we face today is unprecedented. We need much more public investment, and deeper reforms of the private and financial sectors to enhance investment in the real economy.”


On the government’s decision to ban letting fees, Alice Martin, Housing Lead at the Foundation, said:

A ban on letting agency fees alone falls well short of addressing the major problems facing renters: insecurity, high rents and poor quality homes. We need secure tenancies and more local control for cities and regions to set affordable rents.”

40,000 proposed new affordable homes is a drop in the ocean. We continue to give away even more control over housing by selling off our public land and hoping private sector builders will do the right thing — an approach that has consistently failed the millions trapped in rip-off rents and endless waiting lists.”

To plug the housing gap we desperately need to fund a surge in good quality, genuinely affordable housing, provided by local authorities and community partnerships. We could build 600,000 new homes on public land sites currently up for sale — today was a huge missed opportunity.”


On the government’s planned changes to universal credit, Sarah Lyall, Social Policy Lead at the Foundation, said:

Today’s announcements will be of little reassurance to struggling families up and down the country, still facing major cuts to already fragile incomes right through to 2020.”

With the benefit freeze and cuts to the work allowance and employment support allowance still in place, people will feel increasingly left behind by the economy, experiencing an ever widening gap between income and the cost of living in Britain.”

The Chancellor’s failure to draw a clear line under his predecessor’s austerity agenda will leave millions vulnerable to the economic impacts of Brexit.”


On the government’s freeze to fuel duty and increased spending on roads, Stephen Devlin, Senior Economist at the Foundation, said:

Increasing borrowing to subsidise fossil fuels is not prudent. The UK is the only major economy to be increasing fossil fuel subsidies – this needs to end. We should be leading the world on the industries of the future instead of propping up the industries of the past.”

A genuine solution to our unaffordable, unaccountable national energy provision would be to give communities real control, expanding municipal energy and boosting local home energy efficiency.”

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