Andrew Jepp, Managing Director, Zurich Municipal, comments on the Autumn Budget

Insurance Premium Tax

The Chancellor’s decision to freeze Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) will be welcomed by the public sector, businesses and individuals. We are pleased that the Government has listened to our calls not to raise IPT as an increase in this ‘tax on responsibility’ would have put additional pressures on local authority budgets already stretched by years of spending cuts. At the same time, the public sector organisations are experiencing an increasing number of significant in size insurance claims and IPT rise would have increased the pressure further and leave them financially vulnerable when the unfortunate happens.

Local Government Finance

Today’s news that the Chancellor will provide additional funds to the public sector to deliver and manage vital services is welcome.

Although the investment we’ve seen today is a step in the right direction, local councils are increasingly turning to alternative income streams to plug the funding gap. While risk-taking is inevitable in this uncertain and difficult climate, it’s essential that local authorities ensure that they have robust plans in place to minimise and mitigate the risks arising from increased commercial activities.

Housing

“Philip Hammond had made clear his intention to use this Budget to try and fix Britain’s broken housing market. The recent announcements made by the Government to scrap the borrowing cap will allow local authorities greater freedom to replenish social housing stock, which is a step in the right direction.

“However, the underlying reality is that removal of this cap could see councils and local authorities take on more debt to build homes. It is imperative public sector organisations enforce responsible levels of borrowing to ensure that they are not exposed to unnecessary financial risk.

“Local authorities must ensure they are not borrowing more than is affordable, and central to this is including qualified risk management and financial planning professionals at the beginning of any process that includes public financial risk.

“With no silver-bullet solution to the housing crisis, removing the cap on borrowing will allow individual councils to decide for themselves how best to build housing for their constituents. This is a welcome initiative but must be undertaken with caution and the most robust due-diligence.”

Potholes

It’s great news for drivers that £420 million has been put forward in today’s Budget to help local councils repair damaged roads and bridges. The bad weather earlier this year led to a 158% increase in pothole-related claims to Zurich and we think the nation’s road users will be very pleased to know that smoother journeys are in sight!

Local authorities face what we think is an unprecedented programme of road repair and maintenance and, aside from damage to vehicles, poorly maintained roads also contribute to road traffic accidents.