Autumn Statement triggers a dozen consultations – including a planning BOGOF

Posted on 23rd November, 2023



This is Blog No 50


As usual, the Autumn Financial Statement provides an insight into the policy-making processes of the Treasury. Except that there is absolutely no consistency.

It’s as if there’s a permanent team of mature mandarins and their officials dreaming up the most technocratic consultations, analysing them and enabling the Chancellor to announce “Following our recent consultation on (…gobbledegook …)  I can now announce a super-amended (gobbledegook).”


Simultaneously, locked away in great secrecy, there’s another bunch of smart whizz-kids conjuring up a range of absolutely new initiatives – there to surprise and delight Government supporters and fiercely kept under wraps under the obligatory leak to the Daily Mail 72 hours before the Ministerial announcement. And these of course … by definition ... are not consulted upon.


So, as usual, today’s ragbag of newly announced or launched consultations ranges from the mysteriously obscure to the possibly relevant. Of greatest long-term significance may be consultations aimed at easing Ministers’ frustrations with arms’ length regulators who have given them political headaches such as sewage in the rivers or energy suppliers going bust:


Selectively ignoring the least interesting items, we have:

  • Launched yesterday, an eight-week consultation on the draft Statutory Guidance for Regulators on applying the Growth duty (per S.108 Deregulation Act 2015)
  • Also launched yesterday, an eight-week consultation on Strengthening the economic regulation of energy water and telecoms (i.e. Ofgem, Ofwat and Ofcom). This is a heavy, serious 105-page consultation document with 39 questions. 
  • A ‘Call for evidence’ ( a ‘consultation’ without having to observe the rules????) on having a single pension pot and based upon the outcome report to the Summer 2023 consultation on ‘Ending the proliferation of deferred small pots’
  • Announcements of several consultations in the coming months – including (another ???) one on East-west rail, new processes for obtaining a ‘Fit-note’ (remember it used to be a ‘sick-note’!), the revised Help-to-Save scheme, ‘captive’ insurance companies, and reforming airport slot allocations.

So, limited implications for public consultations?

Well, not quite. Note what is NOT mentioned.

As we struggle with housing shortages, and battle to rebuild our electricity transmission infrastructure, there are major changes to planning laws in the offing. Ministers can’t yet be specific. Those who face the inconvenience of living near new electricity pylons – many of whom are aggressively resisting through current project consultations, may enjoy a range of ‘community benefits’ - like discounted bills. But they are obviously not yet ready for a policy consultation to be announced; and remember that the Labour opposition is also talking about speeding up planning decisions to encourage more housebuilding – quite possibly by limiting the extent of local consultation.


And the Planning BOGOF consultation ?

The government is announcing a consultation on a new Permitted Development Right for subdividing houses into two flats without changing the façade. This will be implemented in 2024 following consultation early in the New Year.  Buy one – get one free!


My mind reverted to that allusion of the Treasury as a single house, now sub-divided with the consultation-minded Mandarins in one flat, and the maverick whizz-kids in the other....

And still maintianing that facade...


So that’s where the idea came from ….!


Rhion H Jones LL.B


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It's all pretty depressing...but I suppose we have to be grateful for some consultations of substance. Let's hope they follow Gunning Principles and result in better decisions being taken.