At the Spending Review 2020 and in the National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) the UK Government already announced a record amount of capital and infrastructure investment, read our WBD briefing here.
Published alongside the Spring Budget is the policy paper: Build Back Better: our plan for growth. This now sets out how the investment will help the economy to recover post COVID-19 and lay the foundations for long-term sustainable growth. A key component of the plan for growth is investment in "high quality infrastructure".
To stimulate short-term economic activity and drive long-term productivity improvements focusing on broadband, roads, rail and cities, this year 2021-22 will see government capital investment of £100bn. For local areas investment will come via the UK-wide Levelling-Up Fund and UK Shared Prosperity Fund, as well as the Towns Fund and High Street Fund.
To accelerate progress to net zero and implement the Ten Point Plan there is funding to be delivered by a new UK Infrastructure Bank. The new Bank will provide financing (and advisory support), to local authority and private sector infrastructure projects that help meet government objectives on climate change and regional economic growth. With an initial £12bn capitalisation it will be able to support £40bn of investment including for local authority and private sector infrastructure projects, and issue up to £10bn of guarantees.
The plan for growth picks out for specific mention four Project Speed "pathfinder projects":
- The Oxford-Cambridge Arc, led by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG)
- The New Hospital Programme within the Health Infrastructure Plan, led by the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC)
- The A66 Northern Trans-Pennine upgrade, led by the Department for Transport (DfT)
- The Northumberland Line, led by Northumberland County Council in partnership with DfT.
The plan for growth makes it clear that streamlining the planning system is still very much part of the plan to accelerate and improve project delivery. It states that potential reforms - the words used are, "similar rigorous [ ] approaches and mind sets" - identified via these projects and that could accelerate and improve delivery, "will be applied to other critical regional and national projects over this Parliament".
Other infrastructure announcement include that the UK will issue its first sovereign green bond this summer, with a further issuance to follow later in 2021. Green gilt issuance in the financial year 2021-22 will be a minimum of £15bn and will help fund critical projects to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges, finance important infrastructure investment, and create green jobs across the country, states the plan. Linked to this is the announcement that to give every UK saver the opportunity to take part in the collective effort to tackle climate change, the government will issue a green retail investment product linked to the green gilt programme.
The plan for growth also gives an update on the expected dates for publication of the further strategies and consultations. Still on target to be published in the next three months are the Heat and Buildings Strategy and the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy. The overarching Net Zero Strategy will follow sometime later in the next twelve months. However, the release of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which was planned for Q1, has been pushed out to the late summer/early autumn.