Javid's 'infrastructure revolution' off to cautious start

 

Chancellor Sajid Javid used his first Spending Round to call for an 'infrastructure revolution' and promise a national strategy by 'the autumn'.

'From the motor highway to the information superhighway, we'll settle for nothing less than an infrastructure revolution,' he said, although his announcement was light on details or announcements on new cash increases.

As a first step towards investing in better transport, Mr Javid announced £200m of new money for bus services including cash for low emission buses and 'new on-demand services' - with further details in due course.

He seemed to borrow some of previous Conservative chancellor George Osborne's clothes in his emphasis on infrastructure as being a means to boost national confidence and the economy.

Like his predecessor he lambasted previous low investment that meant we had 'fallen behind our competitors'.

In a further attempt to steady Westminster, he promised that 'no department's funding will be cut next year' with spending increased at least in line with inflation - 'that's what I mean by the end of austerity'.

The Department for Transport settlement includes:

  • an 11.4% increase in real terms to the department’s resource budget from 2019-20 to 2020-21;
  • £1.1bn funding to ensure the Strategic Road Network runs safely and smoothly, enabling a high-performing road network that will support the economy;
  • support for rail passengers and the wider rail network – for example, by committing a further £275m for maintaining rail infrastructure in 2020-21 compared to 2019-20;
  • over £200m of increased funding to transform bus services, making best use of technology and promoting decarbonisation, to help people make the everyday journeys that matter most to them. Further details will be announced in due course; and
  • continued support for the development of major transport projects, including pushing on with work on the Leeds to Manchester route of Northern Powerhouse Rail, and driving forward East West rail links in the Oxford to Cambridge Arc.

While the communities department MHCLG was promised 'continued funding for the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse'.

On the environment, Mr Javid added: 'Leaving the EU provides an opportunity to set world leading environmental standards, and we’re giving Defra £432m of funding to do so. We’re providing £30m of new money to tackle the crisis in our air quality and another £30m for biodiversity.'

He also highlighted £2bn of previously announced extra cash for Brexit preparations some oc which will be spent on infrastructure around ports.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt said: 'The Chancellor is right to recognise the UK must up its game on infrastructure, but any revolutionary plans for digital connectivity, improvements to failing urban transport networks and expanding clean energy must be translated into effective actions.

'The Government must therefore ensure its forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy is truly long-term in outlook, backed by clear goals and stable and ambitious funding, and genuinely committed to a change in approach. Such a transformative shift is essential if our country is to thrive and cope with the challenges of a growing population and the impacts of climate change.

'Fortunately the Chancellor has in our National Infrastructure Assessment a costed, strategic and deliverable blueprint for how that can be achieved. We hope he is true to his word and accepts our expert advice.'

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