The right hon. Gentleman is a very distinguished Member of this House and no doubt has many things on his mind, so perhaps he has temporarily forgotten that we created a combined authority for Newcastle last year, which I understand is flourishing. Indeed, I anticipate that it will be the beneficiary of more devolution in the not-too-distant future. He talks about the balkanisation of the business rate, but it seems to me that if we are offering rewards to people who have worked hard in a local area, it would be grossly unfair to take money away from Newcastle just because it has done particularly well. He will also know that the Government are currently reviewing the business rate to ensure that fairness continues and that greater fairness is possible. I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole Government when I say that we very much look forward to hearing the contribution that he will want to make on that.
The 2014 and 2015 growth deals are enabling 39 local enterprise partnerships to join up with councils and businesses to decide their own priorities. The funding can be used for investment in housing, roads, broadband or any other infrastructure. Some £12 billion will go towards local economies, and we have already agreed £7 billion of local projects. The result will be more new homes and infrastructure and greater support for local businesses to train young people, enhance skills and create jobs.
Britain has stepped back from the brink and started to recover from the deep failures of Labour’s great recession. Under our watch, the deficit has been cut and businesses are growing. Confidence is returning and house building is increasing. The number of first-time buyers is at a seven-year high and lenders are offering the most competitive range of mortgages ever. Local economies are growing and using their new powers to support businesses. That has happened under our watch only because this Government have provided the right economic leadership and because our long-term economic plan is working. The Budget will keep us on the road to economic recovery and prevent Britain from returning to the chaos of the past.