Chancellor Rishi Sunak promises 'historic' infrastructure investment ahead of budget

10 March 2020, 20:02

This will be Chancellor Rishi Sunak's first budget
This will be Chancellor Rishi Sunak's first budget. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised to invest "historic amounts" in infrastructure and innovation in the Budget he will deliver against a backdrop of coronavirus instability.

The Treasury said hundreds of billions of pounds will be pledged on Wednesday to invest in infrastructure including roads, railways, broadband and housing.

It was understood this figure could be more than £600 billion over the five-year Parliament.

However, the Government has faced criticism for delaying its key National Infrastructure Strategy to tackle the climate crisis and boost transport connectivity.

Meanwhile, analysts were keeping a watchful eye on whether the Chancellor sticks to the Tories' fiscal rules as he seeks to shepherd the UK through the coronavirus outbreak.

The Treasury said he would triple the average net investment seen over the past 40 years, taking it to the highest levels in real terms since 1955.

Speaking on the eve of his first Budget, Mr Sunak pledged that "no region will be left behind" when he unveils the financial plan.

"We have listened and will now deliver on our promise to level up the UK, ensuring everyone has the same chances and opportunities in life, wherever they live," he added.

"By investing historic amounts in British innovation and world-class infrastructure, we will rebalance opportunities and lay the foundations for a decade of growth for everybody."

The incoming investment was said to be shaped by the findings of a review by the "Green Book", the manual used by ministers to make investment decisions across the country.

The budget will promise more money for infrastructure
The budget will promise more money for infrastructure. Picture: PA

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused the Treasury of embellishing figures on partially fixing infrastructure he blamed the Tories for damaging.

"A stronger Chancellor would have had the Treasury prevent these exaggerated claims," the Labour MP added.

"Mr Sunak is asking us to congratulate him for partially rebuilding what the Conservatives have destroyed over the last 10 years."

Less than a month into the job, Mr Sunak will unveil his financial plan shortly after the FTSE 100 saw its worst day since the 2008 financial crisis amid Covid-19 concerns.

He has not ruled out breaking the fiscal rules limiting taxation and spending set out in the Conservative manifesto as he seeks to guide the UK through the coronavirus instability.

The Tories pledged at the election that they would not borrow to fund day-to-day spending and would ensure debt drops in five years' time.

Mr Sunak has faced calls to provide businesses with immediate support, particularly to those facing losses and payments to sick or self-isolating staff.

The Government had pledged to deliver its £100 billion National Infrastructure Strategy on Wednesday, but that was now being delayed for a number of months.

The detailed plan should set out transport plans while working towards achieving the pledge of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

But his first Budget is expected to include a £5 billion investment to roll out faster broadband across the UK by 2025.

A further £5 billion is expected to be made available in loans in order to boost post-Brexit exports.

Mr Sunak also should double funding for flood defences to £5.3 billion after the storm damage seen across swathes of the nation.