Just a few days ahead of COP26 the government has outlined its spending commitments for the coming years. LI Policy and Public Affairs Manager Theo Plowman examines the budget.

11/03/2020. London, United Kingdom. Budget Day. 10 Downing Street. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak holds up the red box outside Number 11 on his first Budget.
Picture by Harriet Pavey: No 10 Downing Street

A week before COP26, Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP, has set out the government’s spending commitments. The budget sets out the government’s tax and spending plans for the year ahead, while the spending review sets departmental budgets up to the financial year 2024-25.

Given the urgency of the climate and biodiversity crises, the budget fails to deliver appropriate funding and investment to match the huge challenges faced. There is little additional money for nature, and funding for tackling climate change is mixed.

The government’s focus on technological solutions to climate change is supported by more funding into electric vehicles, hydrogen plants and R&D. However, this focus on technology fails to capture the important role that nature-based solutions can play in tackling both the climate and biodiversity emergencies. Whilst there is some additional funding for nature this stands at around £9m, far below what is required.

That £9m has been pledged for local authorities looking to transform neglected urban spaces, on the condition that they use the funding to create green spaces that increase biodiversity and deliver carbon sequestration. These so-called ‘pocket parks’ are frequently created on small, irregular pieces of land such as vacant building lots. The governments estimates that at least 100 parks should be created by this funding is ambitious, the funding of just £90k per park leaves little for maintenance, innovation and delivery of long-term quality green infrastructure.

Key announcements

Public transport funding

  • Cities across England will receive £6.9bn to spend on active transport and public transport projects. £1.5bn of this funding is new.

 Housebuilding

  • A multi-year housing settlement, totalling £24bn; £11.5bn towards building 180,000 new affordable homes.
  • An extra £1.8bn is being invested to bring 1,500 hectares of brownfield land into use, meet the Gov’s commitment to invest £10bn in new housing and unlock 1m new homes.

Planning

  • £65m to digitize England’s planning system

The real win for the landscape sector could be within the realm of skills, where the government has pledged £3.8bn over the parliament in skills funding, which in part is targeted at developing the nation’s green jobs and skills. The budget includes £1.6bn to introduce new T-level courses for those aged 16 to 19, plus £170m for apprenticeships and £550m for reskilling adults. However, a more joined-up strategy is needed, the LI is calling on the government to create a National Green Skills and Jobs Strategy with specific funding for landscape apprenticeships and education.

The LI will continue to work with government to ensure that the policies funded by this most recent budget deliver. Despite a lack of increased investment in nature-based solutions, the delivery of the investment that has been pledged will be vital. Government will need to work with partners to ensure that the Net-Zero Strategy is cohesive and deliverable.

At COP26 next week we will be outlining how the landscape profession can play a key role in driving the net-zero, please follow the COP26 page for updates and if you have any questions about this briefing or our wider work please email: policy@landscapeinstitute.org.

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