Investments in infrastructure, science, technology and education were announced by Chancellor George Osborne today.
Osborne, delivering his Autumn Statement in Parliament, said the UK was at risk at falling behind the rest of the world. A series of investments in infrastructure, with £5 billion coming directly from the Government over three years, another £1 billion from Network Rail with Government guarantees, with a further £5 billion planned in the next spending period, were announced. Another £20 billion is being unlocked from the private sector, Osborne said.
"We need new superfast digital networks for companies across our country. These do not exist today.
"Look at what countries like China and Brazil are building and you see we are at risk of falling behind the rest of the world. We are publishing the National Infrastructure Plan today. For the first time we are identifying more than 500 infrastructure projects we want to see built over the next decade and beyond.
"Roads, railways, airport capacity, power stations, waste facilities, broadband networks - and we are mobilising the finance needed to deliver them too."
Osborne said he would use "British savings for British jobs" and had reached agreements with two major pension funds to unlock another £20 billion of private investment for modern infrastructure.
35 new road and rail schemes had been given the go-ahead, Osborne said. These included electrification of the Transpennine Express, making the Atlantic Gateway from Liverpool a reality, and halving the bridge tolls on the Humber Bridge. He said money would be spent on roads including the A45, A43, A42, A4 and A14. In London, projects include the Northern Line being extended to Battersea. Money would also be spent on the M4 in South Wales and sleeper trains to Scotland.
"This all amounts to a huge commitment to overhauling the infrastructure of our nation. We will match it by overhauling the digital infrastructure too,” Osborne said.
He said the Government would deliver superfast broadband to 90 per cent of homes and mobile coverage to 99 per cent to help create an "economically vibrant countryside".
Osborne also announced that a further £1 billion would be put into the Government’s new Regional Growth Fund for England. "This Government's new Regional Growth Fund for England has already allocated £1.4 billion to 169 projects around the country.
"For every one pound we're putting in, we're attracting six pounds of private sector money alongside it.
"I am today putting a further £1 billion over this Parliament into the Regional Growth Fund, with support as well for the devolved administrations.
"For if we don't get the private sector to take a greater share of economic activity in the regions, then our country will become more and more unbalanced - as it did over the last 10 years.”
Osborne said he would be supporting energy-intensive industries such as steel-making and paper production because to do anything else would be "exporting valuable jobs out of Britain".
An additional £75 million investment in supporting technology-based SMEs to develop, demonstrate and commercialise new products and services was also announced. Along with a £200 million investment in science, which included £25 million towards large-scale technology demonstrators.
The Chancellor also announced that the Government would provide £1.2 billion as part of the additional investment in infrastructure, to spend on schools. Half would go to help local authorities with the greatest need for school places and the other £600 million would support the education secretary’s reforms, funding 100 additional free schools, including maths free schools for 16 to 18-year-olds.
Osborne also said: “Train fares are expensive – and they’re set to go up well above inflation to pay for the much needed investment in new rail and new trains.
“But RPI plus 3 per cent is too much. The Government will fund a reduction in the increase to RPI plus 1 per cent. This will apply across National Rail regulated fares, across the London Tube and on London Buses.”
The planned 3p rise in fuel duty for January and the following 5p rise in August will be changed. The increase in January will be scrapped while in August it will only increase by 2p. This means that petrol prices will be 10p lower than previously planned, saving the average family £144 a year.
The Campaign for Science and Engineering welcomed a £200m of extra investment in science and engineering.
CaSE’s director Imran Khan said: “The £80m for Pirbright and £62m for the Research Councils are real priorities for the sector, and it’s great to see Government has listened to researchers on this issue.”
“Today’s extra cash is the latest in a string of announcements since the Spending Review, which gives me hope that the Chancellor realises we must stay ahead of the curve on research and development. It’s an area that the UK is uniquely placed to benefit from if we invest wisely, and we now need to see a genuine strategy from our political leaders about how we’re going to put science and engineering at the heart of our economic recovery,” Khan said.
Mark Tully, head of Roevin Engineering Recruitment said: “The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and Infrastructure Plan are welcome advances for UK infrastructure, but further investment is needed to ensure we have the skills needed to deliver these schemes. Despite high unemployment, the UK is facing a shortage of qualified engineers who can lead major infrastructure projects.”
Read more about the Autumn Statement.