New transport links are to be created between the poorer outskirts of English cities and more prosperous central areas through a £1.7bn fund, the Government has announced.
Cities around the country will be encouraged to bid for money to connect the “struggling suburbs” with richer parts closer to the centre, with the aim of raising productivity and spreading prosperity.
“Investment in transport is crucial to a strong and resilient economy”
Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary
The Transforming Cities Fund will be announced by Theresa May on a trip to the West Midlands, where she will be joined by Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark.
The West Midlands has been allocated £250m from the new fund, with the region’s Mayor Andy Street expected to announce further details on how it will be used to improve local transport.
The Government hopes that the money will improve productivity by addressing weaknesses in city transport systems, making it easier for people to get between outer areas and the centre at the same time as reducing congestion.
The fund is designed to operate as a competitive pot, allowing local councils and city Mayors to bid for a share of the money to use on the type of transport that will most benefit their area.
Devolved spending boost
While the money will only be available to cities in England, Number 10 indicated last night that the plan will result in Scotland and the other devolved nations being handed a consequential spending boost in the Budget.
“Investment in transport is crucial to a strong and resilient economy,” said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
“The Transforming Cities Fund will drive productivity and growth in cities where this is most needed, connecting communities and making it quicker and easier for people to get around.
“We have already seen the impact of better integrated transport links for both passengers and the local economy in cities like Nottingham and Manchester. This new fund will enable more English cities to reap these benefits.”
The Prime Minister will also commit to boost spending on research and development to 2.4 per cent of the UK’s GDP over the next decade, which could increase public and private investment by as much as £80bn by 2027.
In a boost to companies that work on innovative projects in science and technology, an extra £2.3bn will be invested in R&D in 2021/22, raising the UK’s total budget in that year to £12.5bn.
The Government said the commitment, which forms part of its industrial strategy, would see public R&D spending increase as a share of GDP for each of the next five years and bring investment to “levels last seen in the 1980s”.
“Our industrial strategy will propel Britain to global leadership of the industries of the future, seizing the big opportunities of our time – from artificial intelligence and big data to clean energy and self-driving vehicles,” the Prime Minister said.
Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry welcomed the extra money for research, but said any transport improvements needed to include investment in roads.
“Many small firms rely on accessible and well-maintained transport networks to move the goods and services their businesses are built on,” he added.