The Chancellor delivered his first budget yesterday, which held a lot of infrastructure-related announcements, but details of the National Infrastructure Strategy were sparse.
The Government has delivered its first budget since 2018. It was also the first fiscal event of the new Parliament and for the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, a big undertaking less than a month into the job.
Although a range of infrastructure investments were outlined, including £5.2bn of capital funding for flood defences, further detail on the allocation of up to £600bn for the next five years is expected to follow at the Spending Review later in the year.
As expected, the much-anticipated National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) was not published. This is significant, as it means infrastructure projects and investments remain un-coordinated. It is now confirmed that the NIS will be published in the “spring”.
Last July, ICE detailed what it believes should be in the National Infrastructure Strategy.
The Net-Zero Agenda
On the net-zero agenda, the Government pledged £800 million to create two or more carbon capture storage clusters by 2030. It also offered incentives to help consumers purchase cleaner vehicles.
ICE’s net-zero insights paper explores the role of the infrastructure sector in contributing to the 2050 greenhouse gas emissions net-zero target, including the range of options for effecting change, alongside the steps being taken in other countries to deliver environmentally sustainable development.
Net-zero is also the focus of the ICE’s State of the Nation report, which is due to be published in July.
On transport infrastructure specifically, the Budget included a recommitment to fund the Manchester-Leeds leg of Northern Powerhouse Rail. It also pledged funding to open new train stations across the country and make others more accessible.
The Government committed £27 billion to funding the Strategic Road Network, which is up on previous announcements covering the second road investment strategy by around £2bn.
Chris Richards, ICE Head of Policy and Public Affairs said:
“This Budget rightly recognises the role infrastructure plays in transforming communities. However, there is much detail missing on key pledges and many postponed decisions, including the long-awaited publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy.
“This Strategy is essential if the investment promised today is to address the needs of the country and the economy of the future. While Covid-19 is the immediate threat and understandably the Chancellor’s priority, good strategic infrastructure has the potential to deliver growth and resilience for the UK over the longer term, so we need swift action in the days and months ahead.”
Emma Antrobus, Director for ICE North West, said:
“It is encouraging to see confirmation of investment in regional infrastructure over the next five years and the further commitment to devolution will be a boost to the North. It must however be underpinned by a long-term infrastructure framework with future-proof resilience built in so it is encouraging to see a change in mindset to make sure economic decision-making reflects the economic geography of the country.”
Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said:
“The government’s level of ambition is welcome, and we look forward to seeing how the National Infrastructure Strategy will build on this in addressing the UK’s long-term needs.
“We are particularly encouraged by today’s announcements on five-year funding settlements for city leaders to invest in local transport improvements, and by the additional investment in electric vehicle charging points, both of which are in line with our National Infrastructure Assessment recommendations.
“We also welcome the additional funding for boosting flood protection, though we have repeatedly argued for this to be complemented by the introduction of a national flood resilience standard.
“These new commitments, among others, are important ingredients, and we look forward to seeing the whole recipe in the Strategy later this spring.”
ICE’s Policy team will be reviewing the Budget documents and will publish more analysis in the coming days. Keep informed over on the Infrastructure Blog.