Budget 2020: Public Works Loan Board consultation is welcome

By Rob Whiteman | 13 March 2020
  • Rob Whiteman

This week’s budget was a confident debut for Chancellor Rishi Sunak. A diverse package of fiscal changes were announced to support and strengthen communities and businesses. While these changes are certainly understandable in the current uncertain climate, the Chancellor’s pledges did little to provide support or clarity to local authorities and their over-stretched budgets. However, one key action announced as part of the Chancellor’s Budget has had direct implications for local authorities and is something we welcome here at CIPFA - HM Treasury’s consultation on revising the terms of borrowing from the Public Work Loans Board (PWLB).

In recent years, the PWLB has been an increasingly important lender of funds for local authorities. But concerns around the way councils use borrowed PWLB funds have come to the forefront of the public finance conversation, with a particular concern around the use of borrowing to invest in commercial property. Local authorities across the UK invest billions of pounds each year within their respective communities, and the PWLB is available to help councils invest locally. The problems that have arisen concern a small number of local authorities that have taken out substantial sums of PWLB loans to invest in commercial property. We’ve seen this concerning trend gaining momentum of late – prompting HM Treasury to take action.

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Finance CIPFA Budget Investment

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