The Government has revealed details of its future spending plans in yesterday’s Budget. The Autumn Budget and Spending Review, to give it its full title, was – as expected – light on major new infrastructure investment, the bulk of these having already been shared in the Infrastructure Strategy last year and made in previous Budget announcements.
In his response to the media, director of policy Matthew Farrow said: “Today’s Budget saw limited new announcements on infrastructure, which much of the welcome funding for city transport schemes and the Levelling Up Fund grants being money that had previously been announced.”
Mainstream media focus has been on spending pledges to the NHS, tweaks to universal credit and the always popular cuts to beer duty and it has been received as a “spend now, pay later” Budget by most of Fleet Street.
From a construction and infrastructure perspective there was still plenty to be pleased about, although – as is often the case – understanding what is new and previously announced money is sometimes difficult.
- £5.7bn fund for the regions to create “London-style transport infrastructure”.
- £5bn for local roads maintenance – enough to fill one million more potholes a year.
- £5bn in total funding for buses, cycling and walking schemes.
- £2.6bn for a long-term pipeline of over 50 local roads upgrades
- £1.8bn for regenerating brownfield sites – unlocking one million new homes
- £1.7bn of funding from the first round of the Levelling Up Fund for 105 local projects.
- £23m of new funding to join up the regions. This will build on the existing £20m union connectivity development fund and comes ahead of the final recommendations of Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review.
What was demonstrably lacking, however, were details on rail investment. The delayed Integrated Rail Plan is expected soon and it will outline how major projects like HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, East/West Rail and the Midlands Engine – all key to levelling up – will progress. It is also likely to share how rail moves to full electrification of the network to meet society’s Net Zero targets.
As Matthew Farrow added in his media response: “The Chancellor missed a trick here – a long term funding commitment for the rail electrification that will be needed to hit rail decarbonisation targets would have shown commitment to the hard yards of delivering Net Zero”.
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