The tone and good humour in the Chancellor’s delivery of this week’s Spring Statement began with the usual “Red Book” reference – a joke over two years old but still going strong – and was matched by a “Tigger-like” buoyancy which sent the news anchors into a spin in post-statement interviews. One by one politicians were asked to state their A.A. Milne character allegiance. No one plumped for wise Owl but Lord Porter, bravely called himself out as local government’s Eeyore on Afternoon Live with Simon McCoy. Cratus took a pause from the politics to indulge in a cultural reference or two and were struck by Eeyore’s sentiment captured in The House at Pooh Corner which could perhaps speak to the relationships between local and central government:
“That’s what I call bouncing,” said Eeyore.
“Taking people by surprise. Very unpleasant habit. I don’t mind Tigger being in the Forest,” he went on, “because it’s a large Forest, and there’s plenty of room to bounce in it. But I don’t see why he should come into my little corner of it, and bounce there. It isn’t as if there was anything very wonderful about my little corner. Of course for people who like cold, wet, ugly bits it is something rather special, but otherwise it’s just a corner, and if anybody feels bouncy —”
“I didn’t bounce, I coughed,” said Tigger crossly.
“Bouncy or coffy, it’s all the same at the bottom of the river.” – Eeyore
As expected, Mr Hammond did not make any significant tax or spending announcements. Brexit and local government were conspicuous by their absence. This did not go unnoticed online, with Channel 4’s Faisal Islam promptly tweeting a Government paper demonstrating the complete absence of any upcoming departmental allocation of the £1.5bn Brexit funding to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
With a much-reduced duration of speech to the House, the Chancellor delivered these key messages to local government leaders and stakeholders: