PM unveils build programme but ‘no new money’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised a “Rooseveltian” programme of investment in Britain and has pledged to “build, build, build” to bring the country out of recession after the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson is expected to announce a “New Deal” today with £5bn of investment to accelerate infrastructure projects, create jobs and revitalise the economy.
However, commenting on Twitter, Construction Products Association economics director Noble Francis said: “The important point to note about the Prime Minister’s promises to ‘build, build, build’ is that it is not new, additional money despite all the public relations and spin behind it.”
The £5bn will include:
- £1.5bn this year for hospital maintenance, enabling hospital building, and improving A&E capacity.
- £100m this year for 29 projects in the road network, as well as £10m for development work to unblock the “Manchester rail bottleneck”, which will begin this year.
- Over £1bn to fund the first 50 projects of a new, ten-year school rebuilding programme (announced yesterday), starting from 2020-21. These projects will be confirmed in the autumn, and construction on the first sites will begin from September 2021.
- £560m and £200m for repairs and upgrades to schools and FE colleges respectively this year.
- £142m for digital upgrades and maintenance to around 100 courts this year, £83m for maintenance of prisons and youth offender facilities, and £60m for temporary prison places.
- £900m for a range of ‘shovel ready’ local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next, as well as £96m to accelerate investment in town centres and high streets through the Towns Fund this year. This will provide all 101 towns selected for town deals with £500,000-£1m to spend on projects such as improvements to parks, high streets, and transport.
In the autumn, the government will also publish a National Infrastructure Strategy which will set a direction on core economic infrastructure, including energy networks, road and rail, flood defences and waste.
And it said it would bring forward funding to accelerate infrastructure projects in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Johnson, who will talk about an “infrastructure revolution”, is expected to say: “It sounds positively Rooseveltian. It sounds like a New Deal. All I can say is that if so, then that is how it is meant to sound and to be, because that is what the times demand. A government that is powerful and determined and that puts its arms around people at a time of crisis.
“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.”
Caroline Gumble, chief executive of the CIOB, welcomed the news. Gumble said: “We welcome the announcement made by the government for a boost in infrastructure in the UK. Construction is vital to the economy, and it is reassuring to see the government acknowledge the importance of the sector. This will provide a necessary boost to employment, which is not only essential in rebuilding the economy, but vital for retaining skills and talent in our industry.
“We also welcome the government’s investment in repair, maintenance and improvement projects, and have long called for more focus on this area of the sector. It is also a prime opportunity to look at building quality and make sure that remains at the top of the industry’s agenda as this has been one of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry in recent years. We hope that this is the first announcement amongst many, dedicated to the improvement of quality standards for our buildings.”