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Spend, spend, spend - Osborne splashes the cash

So Wednesday's spending review provided few major surprises. Plenty of money being chucked at infrastructure projects from road to rail, digital, and even new money for schools.

Hard to criticise these kind of projects: the country's infrastructure is creaking, roads are bursting at the seams and crumbling to bits, our railways an overcrowded mess with dilapidated stations away from the main hubs. Most businesses will also agree that heavy investment in digital infrastructure is a good thing too. The further we move in to the 21st century, the greater the reliance on digital technology will be, business needs this investment.
 
Money allocated to capital growth spending represents vast sums, and the money will wash down right through the economy. This is excellent news for small businesses who will be able to harvest the spoils, so we can all celebrate that.
 
Before we get the bunting out though, remember this is all a way off yet. This is the problem with spending reviews two years ahead of themselves, it's like getting excited about a summer holiday you've booked before Christmas, or in this case two Christmases before. It's also quite likely some of what was announced on Wednesday will also change. 
 
Our biggest disappointment though is the allocation of just £2bn to the single local growth fund. This was announced in Heseltine's growth plan, but at a somewhat larger 10billion a year - or £50b over the course of a full Parliament. We said before the spending review anything that was substantially less than this - and we'd say just 20% of the figure is a marked deviation from Hezza's proposal - doesn't give the long term commitment businesses were seeking, and needed to hear to really get behind the local growth agenda.
 
That said, while the £2bn figure is disappointing, it's hardly small change. Shared out between the 39 LEPs it's around 50m each in the first year. The onus will now be on them to submit clear and convincing growth strategies focused on a small number of key local policies. If they can demonstrate success on a small scale, there's the chance that more money will be forthcoming from Mr Osborne or whoever else is in Number 11 in the future.
 
That nicely takes me to future spending levels. There's been much said in the media about this, namely that the Treasury would have to do another two spending reviews with savings equal to Wednesday's to balance the country's books. That may be true, but it doesn't take in to account growth in the UK economy over and above what's been forecast. Only this week we have heard the quite startling news that the UK didn't actually have an official double dip recession owing to the guesswork being wrong. This really demonstrates an over reliance on this kind of 'guest-imation' work, and it's something we need to be aware of. 

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