£5bn ‘New Deal’ to support levelling up

Boris Johnson will set out plans for infrastructure investment as he seeks to stimulate the economy and protect and create jobs in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.

Taking inspiration from US President Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s, the Prime Minister will announce £5bn of capital investment aimed at accelerating projects including school building and transport network improvements.

Among a raft of new and repeated spending measures to be announced later today, there is expected to be £10m to remove bottlenecks on the Manchester rail network and money for road projects including improvements to the A15 in the Humber.

Johnson speech is expected to highlight this package of investment as an opportunity to deliver upon the levelling up agenda – a key topic in the Conservative’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.”

Henri Murison, director of Northern Powerhouse Partnership, 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.

He added that this speech however “cannot merely be rhetoric but must be met by the full commitment of necessary public and private resources.”

Calling on Government to in particular “accelerate projects like the Trans Pennine 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 Johnson 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.

Murison concludes 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 by TheBusinessDesk.com and Squire Patton Boggs, “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.”