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Spending Review 2015

What does today's Autumn Budget mean for London and the voluntary sector? Read on for our analysis of some of the more significant announcements. And as the detail is absorbed and the numbers crunched over the next few days, we'll be keeping you up to date with the commentary on our Autumn Budget storify page.

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Autumn Budget: what you need to know

What does today's Autumn Budget mean for London and the voluntary sector? Read on for our analysis of some of the more significant announcements. And as the detail is absorbed and the numbers crunched over the next few days, we'll be keeping you up to date with the commentary on our Autumn Budget storify page.

Today saw the much heralded Spending Review and Autumn Statement from Chancellor George Osborne. We were agog to hear whether rumours about the 'raiding' of the Big Lottery Fund were true - they weren't - which made us wonder where the rumour had come from in the first place. The Chancellor also made an early U-turn in abolishing his proposed changes in tax credits and cut many critics off at the knee with an undertaking to protect spending on police. The devil will, of course, be in the detail with commentators already pointing out that there has been some optimistic moving of goalposts by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Local Government, Health and Social Care

On Local Government the Chancellor is clear that he expects the taxpayer and local authorities to cover the phasing out of the local government grant by the end of this Parliament.  Councils have been promised they can keep 100% of receipts generated by selling off their assets and given gentle encouragement to spend their reserves.  Consultation will now start on how they will be allowed to keep their business rates revenue and the freedoms elected Mayors will have. But how will this play out in London?  We know that local authorities in our poorest areas have been disproportionately hit by cuts in public sector spending.  Areas with high business rates and high council taxes, with a booming property market and thriving private sector, will benefit most from these measures with proportionately more revenue raised whilst our poorer areas, with the most disadvantaged communities, will struggle to deliver even the most crucial services.

Local authorities providing social care will be able to levy a 2% precept on council tax, ring-fenced for those services - if they  all carry this out it will bring almost £2bn into the social care system and the Better Care Fund has been increased by £1.5bn by 2019-20 to help authorities better integrate health and social care. However, according to the BBC, £200m has already been removed from this year's council public health budgets. Savings are also anticipated in the public health grant with a consultation on transferring new powers and responsibilities.  London Councils has raised concerns about the impact of reducing public health spending in London due to higher than average rates of obesity, smoking related illnesses and sexually transmitted diseases.

Prisons

On the criminal justice front, much of the impact of the chancellor's announcements will be how it is implemented - which is, at present, unknown. The closure of 'under-used courts' and HMP YOI Holloway are very unsettling. In Gove's statement he moots closure by summer 2016 and seems to suggest there will be no rebuilding but increase at HMP Bronzefield and the re-opening of HMP Downview - neither in London and a long way from Essex. The implications for the whole sector are huge, given many organisations have worked in geographical proximity to Holloway for years.

Police budgets

In the wake of Paris, police budgets will not be cut. This was an extraordinary announcement, given the rumours of what was coming down stream, and will make a substantive difference to London's incoming PCC and Mayor next May; along with the announcement of £11 billion for infrastructure for Transport for London.

Apprenticeships and employment support

As expected, apprenticeships featured heavily. Following the announcement in the summer budget of an employer levy to fund 3 million new apprenticeships, the Chancellor clarified this will amount to 0.5% of employer pay bills where the payroll is over £3 million. The trick will be ensuring that all young people can access these opportunities: research from the Runnymede Trust shows that only 9.5% apprenticeships are taken up by BME young people, despite 20% of young people coming from a BME background.

Universal Credit will continue to be rolled out, with job search conditionality extended to a further 1.3 million claimants per year by 2020. An integrated Work and Health Programme will replace the Work Programme and Work Choice to provide support for the long term unemployed and those with health conditions and disabilities. Many voluntary sector providers will welcome the extra funding for employment support aimed at those with health conditions and disabilities. However, the money won't mean much unless the programme is designed so the voluntary sector can get involved: until more details are released about the successor to the Work Programme, we won't know whether this is the case.

Help to buy in London

The Chancellor announced a new "London Help to Buy" scheme: Londoners with a 5% deposit will be able to get an interest free loan worth up to 40% of the price for properties worth up to £600,000, helping to move people out of the private rented sector. However, research from GLA Economics concluded that one of the reasons that London's house prices are so high in the first place is because of the low costs of borrowing. By making it easier to borrow, the government's new scheme could be further pumping up a bubble. If (when?) the correction finally takes place, the potential ramifications for London's economy are significant.

Support for charities

The allocation of additional funding for some excellent VCSE organisations in the violence against women and girls (VAWG) sector is welcome but it's too little, too late for charities like Eaves, who leave a gaping hole in the VAWG landscape. The inanity of paying for it from the 'tampon tax' is cynical at best - ending violence against women and girls is no more or less a 'women's problem' than counter-terrorism. Also, a funding promise based on money that you are actively lobbying the EU to stop being paid, begs the question of sustainability. When the hated tampon tax is abolished, what then ... A WI bake sale?

Finally, David Cameron's controversial National Citizenship Service receives a huge increase in funding with an increase to 300,000 places by the end of this parliament. This will leave little capacity for the Office for Civil Society to support the sector or develop policy in an environment where its parent department, The Cabinet Office, is facing cuts of 26%.  Amongst all the devolution, this feels like central government rolling out their quite narrow vision of youth work nationwide, at a time when many local councils have had to hugely scale back or entirely cut youth provision. LVSC's vision for a fairer London is equality of opportunity for all young people.

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