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Hammond pledges cash for roads and regions

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Extra funding for councils to fill potholes is to be allocated to local authorities, while a third of extra funding for improving transport links in and around cities will go to areas with mayoral devolution deals.

The Budget book confirmed the government will provide an extra £420m in 2018-19 to councils to “tackle potholes, repair damaged roads, and invest in keeping bridges open and safe”. However, it said it will “allocate” that funding.

An additional £150m for “small improvement projects such as roundabouts” will also be made “available” to councils, suggesting a bidding process will follow.

The government is extending the transforming cities fund by a year to 2022-23, and increasing its value from £1.7bn to £2.4bn.

While £240m will be divided between the mayoral combined authorities, the Budget red book said another £440m “will be made available to the city regions shortlisted for competitive funding”. It added: “Ten city regions are eligible for this funding, and the government will shortly be announcing a further two.”

The funding for the mayoral combined authorities is as follows:

  • £71.5m for West Midlands CA
  • £69.5m for Greater Manchester CA
  • £38.5m for Liverpool City Region CA
  • £23m for West of England CA
  • £21m for Cambridgeshire & Peterborough CA
  • £16.5m for Tees Valley CA

West Midlands mayor Andy Street (Con) said: “The money announced for the West Midlands once again demonstrates the government’s confidence in our region and our ability to build a strong and resilient economy that can meet the needs of local people and the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.

“The extra funding for transport infrastructure is especially important and will help us manage the increased congestion and disruption that comes with a growing economy and the construction of major projects like HS2. It will also help us tackle poor air quality.”

While chancellor Philip Hammond said the “devolution agenda is giving power back to the people”, former commercial secretary to the Treasury Lord O’Neill criticised the government for its lack of commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail.

A further £37m to “support the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail” was announced in the Budget.

Lord O’Neill, who is now vice chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership thinktank created by former chancellor George Osborne, welcomed the extra funding but added “this government needs to become much more committed to the Northern Powerhouse or stop talking about it”.

He said: “All Northern eyes will be on the chancellor in the coming months to see if the Treasury sign off on Northern Powerhouse Rail, a scheme that will be transformational for economic growth and rebalancing the economy. Without it, the exciting potential for the Northern Powerhouse to boost the national economy’s growth trend won’t be realised.”

The Budget book said the government will “publish a refreshed Northern Powerhouse Strategy next year”.

However, Lord O’Neill said “the critical investment we need in transport, education, skills, devolution and increasing productivity is not being delivered, despite the consistent and persuasive cases being made by our business and civic leaders”.

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen was celebrating after the government supported a plan to create a special economic area covering the South Tees Development Corporation and provided an additional £14m for the scheme.

“This investment, subject to approval of a satisfactory business case, will enable the [corporation] to undertake early redevelopment of a part of the site and attract new business and investment. Designation of the site as a Special Economic Area would allow for the local retention of additional business rates growth,” the Budget book said.

Mr Houchen wrote for LGC last week about his bid to gain free port status for the region.

Responding to today’s announcement, Mr Houchen said: “This is the first step to a Free Zone in the Tees Valley.”


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