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Autumn Statement: DCN welcomes local housing allowance and planning boosts

Published: 22 November 2023

The Government has today announced significant extra funding to ease homelessness pressures in response to a campaign led by the District Councils’ Network (DCN).

In his Autumn Statement this afternoon, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a series of measures for which the DCN has pushed hard. These include greater support for people at risk of homelessness; greater freedom to set planning fees locally, and funding to mitigate the impact of nutrient pollution.

However, the long-term future of essential council services to help vulnerable people remains unclear in local government’s difficult financial environment.


The DCN welcomes Jeremy Hunt’s decision to raise Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to the 30th percentile of local market rates.

The Chancellor took action after 119 councils – including two-thirds of all district councils – signed a cross-party letter to him, warning that the scale of the temporary accommodation crisis threatens both councils’ financial viability and the wellbeing of many people who are close to crisis point. 

The cost of temporary accommodation to councils hit £1.7bn last year and is set to be higher still in 2023-24.  

Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen, Chairman of the District Councils’ Network, said: “We are appreciative that the Government has listened to the concerns of councils – by raising the Local Housing Allowance rate, the Chancellor has done a huge amount to ensure more housing is available to those most in need of support.

“We have campaigned long and hard for the Government to take this action with the scale of the feeling demonstrated recently by 119 councils signing our letter calling for extra support.

“This move will be hugely welcomed by district councils and will have a huge impact by both boosting the supply of affordable housing and providing financial relief to councils which have been reeling as a result of rising costs.

“However, no one should be under any illusion that the homelessness crisis is over – there has been no commitment to uprate the Local Housing Allowance annually and, despite the measures announced today, there remain far too few affordable homes for those in need.

“We seek to work with Government to devise a long-term plan to smash the barriers to affordable housing, including the many financial and regulatory restrictions which prevent councils from building homes ourselves.” 

Cllr Hannah Dalton, DCN’s Housing spokesperson, said: “The raising of the LHA has today provided a lifeline to council services which are themselves a lifeline – to some of the most vulnerable people in society, and to other parts of the public sector, which are spared the extra costs of dealing with the homelessness that would otherwise arise.

“However, the long-term prognosis of our services to prevent homelessness remains unclear amid rising demand and the overall financial difficulties experienced by councils. We need a long-term funding settlement in order to safeguard our essential work.” 


DCN has also expressed support for the Chancellor’s confirmation that planning fees will increase, providing welcome financial support for this most stretched of local government services, and for his move to allow councils to use planning fees to recover the full costs of processing major business applications.

Jeremy Hunt announced this alongside a move to create new premium planning services offering accelerated decisions for major projects, with fee refunds when target deadlines for decisions are not met.

Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen, DCN’s Chairman, said: “Councils stand alongside the Government in seeking to support business and we are committed to reducing the time it takes to process planning applications that can boost jobs and help grow our local and national economies.

“The DCN has long campaigned for greater freedom for councils to set planning fees locally so that we can fund a quicker, more responsive service. Today’s announcement that we will be able to charge premium fees for major applications is an important step forward. Coming on top of recent confirmation that big increases to fees for all planning applications will be implemented in December, DCN is pleased that the Government is listening to our concerns.

“We look forward to working with the Government on working on the detail of the plan to increase the supply of planning officers, which has been the major barrier to accelerating the pace of the system.”

However, DCN is concerned about the extension of Permitted Development Rights. A blanket move to allow houses to be divided into flats could in some areas lead to a shortage of much-needed family homes. We believe such decisions are best taken in local communities.

Nutrient neutrality

The Government today announced a £110m Local Nutrient Mitigation Fund to deliver local nutrient offsetting schemes and ensure new housing developments can proceed.

Cllr Chapman Allen added: “While district councils are committed to keeping our rivers clean, we have been continually frustrated by nutrient neutrality rules which are thwarting us from delivering the houses our communities need.

“DCN has led conversations with central government to represent the interests of our members and other councils. We’re pleased that the Chancellor has listened.

“The extra funding announced today to unlock 40,000 homes should go some way to ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place so that much needed development can take place and we whole-heartedly welcome this measure.”

Local government finance

District councils have repeatedly raised concerns about their funding. DCN research in October revealed expectations of a funding shortfall of £1.1bn in funding over 2023-24 and 2024-25. They expect to make savings amounting to 9% of their budgets.

In particular, steeply rising demand for homelessness services and temporary accommodation is causing acute pressure. DCN is pleased that the Chancellor has acted today to relieve homelessness pressures by raising Local Housing Allowance rates. DCN is keen to continuing working with central government to ensure sustainable funding is made available for DCN member councils in the Local Government Finance settlement next month.

Cllr Elizabeth Dennis, DCN’s finance spokesperson, said: “The measures proposed to help tackle homelessness pressures announced by the Chancellor today will make some difference to hard-pressed councils.

“But it needs to be set against rapidly rising demand for council services and the impact of inflation which, although now lower, continues to whittle away our budgets. For DCN member councils to withstand the pressures we are under and continue providing the services our communities need, next month’s Local Government Finance Settlement needs to fund council services at a sustainable level. We will continue to press the case for additional freedoms for DCN councils to raise more money locally and for an overall funding package that, as a minimum, keeps pace with the sharp cost increases our councils have seen over the past two years.”


As part of the Autumn Statement, devolution deals were announced by the Government in two areas featuring DCN member councils: a Level 3 deal for Greater Lincolnshire and a Level 2 deal for Lancashire. The Government also said it sought to expand Level 2 devolution to all eligible English councils.

In response, Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen, Chairman of the District Councils’ Network, said:

“We share the Government’s ambition on devolution and want to see deals struck that benefit people and business in all areas that want them. However, power will feel remote from our communities if power is concentrated at county level and district councils – the tier of government closest to local communities – are side-lined.

“It is essential that district councils are given a seat at the table as full members of combined county authorities if we are to end so many people’s disconnection to power.”

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