In his Spring Statement, chancellor Philip Hammond opened bidding on the remaining £840m from the Transforming Cities Fund for improving transport in English cities, boosted skills funding and pledged a consultation on cuts to VED for businesses that buy cleaner vans.
The £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund was announced at Autumn Budget 2017 when around half of it was given to combined authorities with mayors.
Mr Hammond announced that a £29m construction skills funds will open for bids next month and there will be a further £80m to help small business engage apprentices.
On housing, the Spring Statement confirmed:
- The Government is working with 44 areas on their bids into the £4.1bn Housing Infrastructure Fund to help build the homes that the country needs
- The Housing Growth Partnership, which provides financial support for small housebuilders, will be more than doubled to £220m
- London will receive £1.67bn to start building a further 27,000 affordable homes by the end of 2021-22
Elsewhere in infrastructure, the Statement saw the allocation of the first wave of funding from the £190m Challenge Fund to help roll out full-fibre to local area, providing over £95m for 13 areas across the UK.
Local transport and utilities are among the main reasons for the slow sleep of housebuilding in the country according to Sir Oliver Letwin, who is carrying out a review into the issue.
In documents released by the Treasury with the Statement, Sir Oliver wrote to the chancellor to confirm that he will release a draft analysis in June.
He said: 'We have heard from many witnesses that the rate of build out of large sites during Stage 2 is typically held back by a web of commercial and industrial constraints including:
- limited availability of skilled labour,
- limited supplies of building materials,
- limited availability of capital,
- constrained logistics on the site,
- the slow speed of installations by utility companies,
- difficulties of land remediation, and
- provision of local transport infrastructure.
The RAC said motorists would be 'very disappointed' that the chancellor did not address the condition of local roads. Head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: 'As a result of the ‘beast from the East’ some local roads will have deteriorated even further, possibly to the point that they represent a serious risk to the safety of users.
'Figures from the RAC reveal that pothole-related breakdowns soared in the first week of March following the bitterly cold spell the country experienced. Our patrols attended some 218 call-outs per day on average between 4th March and 6th March, a rise of 110% on the period in the run-up to the cold spell.'
The motoring group called for a funding strategy to address both prevention and cure, and certainty for local authorities so they are able to plan ahead.
Mr Lyes added: 'We calculate that if the Government was to ring-fence 5p a litre from existing fuel duty revenue, this could provide £11.8bn over five years.'