The budget today announced new transport funding for the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer, including £74 million extra on top of earlier allocations for improving connectivity, reducing congestion and introducing new mobility services and technology.
Some of this funding can contribute towards making further progress on key local schemes like Wisbech Rail and the A47 upgrade. It can build on the points I set out yesterday about using existing Government money and combining this with the new budget money.
This funding is separate to an extra £5 million for Cambridge South, the commitment confirmed to an expressway of east west roads between Cambridge and Oxford, and the establishment of an East West Rail Company all confirmed today. This makes it all the more important that a significant share of this £74 million is earmarked for the north of Cambridgeshire.
The budget also states that Cambridge will become a Tech Nation hub, which makes connecting with our area even more of priority. Promoting Tech Nation, and Fin Tech in particular, is a key ministerial priority in my role as a Treasury minister. The UK is the world leader in Fin Tech, and it offers huge opportunities moving forward for economic growth alongside developments in Artificial Intelligence.
To help the new Mayor deliver on this infrastructure funding, he will also receive an extra £2 million over the next two years to build the capacity to drive forward this ambitious programme of funding.
Nationally, this is a balanced budget where we:
- firstly address some key short term pressures. This includes freezing fuel duty for the 8th year running which particularly helps a rural community like ours, providing more support for universal credit claimants, major extra funding for the NHS with an extra £1.6 billion next year alone, increasing the living wage to £7.83 an hour, the largest increase for 10 years in youth wage rates, and increasing again the tax free personal allowance up to £11,800 so those working keep more of their own money.
The Chancellor also committed to fund a new NHS pay deal for nurses and other key health workers subject to agreement being reached with the nursing unions, thereby abolishing the pay cap.
- secondly, the budget invests for the long term to improve productivity which is the key to improving wages, with a mix of investment in transport, housing, skills, and technology. This includes a total of £44 billion now being invested in new housing, including abolishing stamp duty for first time buyers for property up to £300,000, record new investment in research and development focussed on high tech knowledge businesses in which Cambridge excels, and major infrastructure and skills investment including doubling apprenticeship funding and new money for schools teaching maths A levels and computer science.
- thirdly, we will continue to clear the deficit inherited from Labour crashing the economy. In 2010 the deficit was a massive 9.9%, which we have now reduced by three quarters to 2.4%. We will continue to reduce this further to 1.1% by the end of the budget period. So we are clearing the overspending whilst ensuring we invest for the future and meet short term pressures.
This has been delivered by using some of the money the Chancellor set aside last year to deliver this additional spending whilst meeting our fiscal targets, as part of a balanced budget approach. By contrast Labour would go too far again, borrowing a further £500 billion which would burden future generations with a massive debt interest bill.
I will be on Sky News this evening to talk further about the budget on the Ian King show.