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East Midlands Chamber News

Cautious welcome given to National Infrastructure Assessment

A new 30-year plan for infrastructure investment in the UK received a cautious welcome today from the biggest business-representation organisation in the Midlands.


The National Infrastructure Assessment, from the National Infrastructure Council, looks at existing and future infrastructure issues and energy security to 2050.


The Chamber has long called for a 50-year energy strategy to ensure security of supply and costs management.


Chris Hobson, Director of Policy at the Chamber, said: “Businesses will welcome the long-term plan for infrastructure investment, particularly the focus on digital and transport connectivity.


“However, at first glance and is so often the case, the plan seems a little London-centric with lip-service paid to the needs of the Northern Powerhouse and no reference, other than HS2, to any improvements to roads or rail connectivity in the East Midlands.


“Yet again, despite being one of the largest contributors to the national economy, this region is being overlooked when it comes to infrastructure investment.


“We are working closely with Midlands Connect, the transport wing of the Midlands Engine for Growth, to drive infrastructure projects such as improvements to the A46 and A5 and bringing forward delivery of HS2 at Toton and ensuring connectivity around the planned station hub and East Midlands Airport.


“Midlands Connect published its own report yesterday, clearly and concisely setting out an agreed list of regional priorities. Essentially, as a region, we’ve overcome disparity and done all the groundwork for Government. Government now has to respond by promising us the right investment in our infrastructure.”


The National Infrastructure Assessment, published this morning, calls for full fibre broadband to all UK homes and businesses by 2033.


It calls for rapid growth in low carbon technologies and recycling and says it will be aiming for 100% electric new car and van sales by 2030 and all new homes to be fitted with charging points. It also recognises the need for accelerating the rollout of public charging points.


The plan accedes that some major cities are nearing capacity in terms of transport inclusivity and calls for growth in rapid transport provision, recommending city-led plans to meet local improvement needs and devolved long-term funding arrangements that could include a two per cent business rates precept.


Chris added: “The business rates system already discourages investment in plant and property and is a tax businesses have to pay regardless of income or ability.


“While recognising the need for infrastructure investment we don’t think the existing business rates system is the correct vehicle to provide this funding. The whole issue of business rates needs to be looked at anew to make it fairer and to encourage investment to create jobs and wealth.


“The National Infrastructure Assessment is a huge piece of work and will deliver a framework for investment for the future but it appears to have completely overlooked the East Midlands.


“Government’s own figures show that the East Midlands receives only 60% per capita average infrastructure spend and we are campaigning to drive that up to the national average by 2020. This report won’t do anything to aid that campaign.”