The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, will set out a strategy for infrastructure investment as the government tries to stimulate the economy and protect and create jobs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The inspiration comes from the ‘New Deal’ of the 1930s by President Franklin D Roosevelt’s and the Prime Minister will announce capital investment of £5bn designed to accelerate projects such as school re-building and transport network improvements.
Among a bundle of new, as well as repeated, spending measures to be announced, there is expected to be £10m to eradicate bottlenecks on the Manchester rail network plus money for road projects including road improvements to the A15 in the Humber region.
Mr Johnson’s speech is expected to emphasise this package as an opportunity to deliver upon the ‘levelling up’ agenda, spreading economic prosperity and devolving power to the regions, a key topic in the Conservative party’s 2019 manifesto, with the PM to say, “This is a government that is wholly committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades. To build the homes, to fix the NHS, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK. To unite and level up. To that end we will build, build, build. Build back better, build back greener, build back faster and to do that at the pace that this moment requires.”
The Director of Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Henri Murison, has responded to the speech saying, “It is vital to put front and centre the work to level up and unite the country in the recovery. Adding that this speech, however, cannot merely be rhetoric but must be met by the full commitment of necessary public and private resources.
He has also called on Government to, in particular, “accelerate projects like the TransPennine Route Upgrade electrification and start building HS2 from Leeds to the Midlands, including related upgrades and the new Northern Powerhouse Rail line through Bradford.”
With the PM announcing £900m for ‘shovel-ready’ projects, Murison states this, “is not enough” highlighting that it is necessary to release, “local investment capacity of up to £5bn at a local level” in order to accelerate delivery across the North and generate jobs.”
Mr Murison closes by looking to America’s New Deal of the 1930s, “History teaches us that the New Deal only worked because the scale of it aspiration was met by spending on the ground to match. If this is a start in that direction and not the limit of what is to be built then it is to be welcomed. Otherwise, the Deal will not meet the promise made of closing the North-South divide made previously by the Prime Minister when he first took up his office. The news comes as little surprise, with many experts predicted a focus on infrastructure spending as a means to deliver economic recovery, including former Northern Powerhouse minister, James Wharton, telling the audience of a webinar, “I think we’re going to see a continued desire by the government to invest in big projects in infrastructure and in things that grow the economy.”
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