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Autumn Budget | Industry hopes for northern funding

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Industry leaders have called for greater funding for the North ahead of today’s budget announcement. 

Contractors, consultants and industry lobbying bodies have all called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to distribute greater funds to the North during the Autumn budget announcement. 

In August, an open letter was delivered to Hammond in which industry leaders, MPs and Lords called on the Treasury to bring forward the delivery date for Northern Powerhouse Rail to 2032 to coincide with the opening of HS2, claiming it would be a “game-changer” for the region. 

Mace head of infrastructure for the north Lisa Bowden said that the Treasury should see the Budget as a chance to take further steps to widen its own criteria and avoid the present bias to the capital.  

“Despite small tweaks made earlier this year, there remains a bias in the methodology which favours projects in the capital,” she said. “If the Treasury takes further steps to widen its own criteria - for example by introducing a calculated ‘Northern Powerhouse stimulus’ adjustment, we could see a much bolder vision for major infrastructure projects in the North.”    

Likewise, Scape Group chief executive Mark Robinson said that ‘‘massive discrepancies’’ still existed between London and the North, but progress was being made. 

“Public services and infrastructure are the building blocks of Britain and fresh investment would go a long way. Our recent essential infrastructure report revealed that per person the North East experienced 40% more construction output on infrastructure projects in 2017 than London,” he said.  

“Initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse have played an instrumental part in this rebalancing act, but the job is not done. There are still massive discrepancies.” 

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for WSP told New Civil Engineer that the consultancy wants to see “continued support for Transport for the North, Midlands Connect, England’s Economic Heartland and Transport for the South East to make the most of Sub-National Strategic Transport Body status.” 

Mace’s chief financial officer Dennis Hone expressed concern over the impact the budget will have going into Brexit said. 

“With our exit from the European Union so close on the horizon, this is a crucial budget. The spending decisions made now will have a big impact as we enter a very uncertain time for the UK economy,” he said.  

“I hope that the Chancellor focuses on funding and delivering infrastructure programmes to ensure that the UK is able to continue to grow sustainably – and prioritises access to skills and innovation for the construction sector.”    

 Hammond is expected to announce the government’s budget today (29 October). 

The Autumn 2018 Budget, Industry wish list : 

- Reforms to the apprenticeship levy allowing contractors to pass more of their levy to their supply chain 

- Further commitment to regional devolution in the UK, particularly around skills 

- Rebalancing the ‘value for money’ calculations made on infrastructure funding to recognise the benefits of delivering northern infrastructure 

- A pledge to deliver both Northern Powerhouse Rail and Crossrail 2 

- A commitment to explore the use of ‘free ports’ once the Brexit deal is confirmed 

- Additional funding for innovation tax credits for the construction sector, above and beyond the sector deal

- Adopt the National Infrastructure Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment, and turn it into an ambitious National Infrastructure Strategy geared for delivery. 

- Focus on the delivery of existing infrastructure projects like HS2, Crossrail and use recent delay announcements as an opportunity to increase the connections with Northern Powerhouse Rail.

- Allocate specific funding to the delivery of the Oxford -Cambridge Milton Keynes Corridor, as requested by England’s Economic Heartland in their Budget Submission.

- Clarify the government’s position on single use plastics, following the consultation announced in the Spring Statement and allocate specific funds to address this. 

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