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02 November 2018

811: Budget Day infrastructure announcements

Today’s entry reports on various announcements on Budget Day.

On Monday, the Chancellor gave his annual budget speech, moved from the traditional Wednesday to avoid Halloween-related headlines (unsuccessfully).

There wasn’t much in the budget itself, but there were a few useful associated announcements.

First, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government issued a consultation response on raising more money for infrastructure amongst other things. We already have the Community Infrastructure Levy, we are now going to have the Strategic Infrastructure Tariff on top, available to combined authorities. Proposals via a ‘combined authority order’ soon.

The Government (the Treasury in fact) has responded to the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC’s) report on the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc, here.

The response says that the Government will progress the new rail and road connections in 2019. An ‘ambitious’ Joint Vision Statement to 2050 will be published in early 2019, and a pan-Arc spatial plan is being considered. I still think someone needs to be in charge for coordinated development of the arc and realisation of the huge aspirations for it are to be achieved.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Government has issued what it calls an ‘Interim Response to the National Infrastructure Assessment‘. I say ‘what it calls’ because it isn’t really a response at all, it is merely a statement of what the Government is doing roughly in the areas of the NIC’s recommendations. For example, the NIC recommended that a target should be set that 65% of municipal waste and 75% of plastic packaging should be recycled by 2030. The Government’s response says that a tax on plastic packaging will be introduced that, subject to consultation, will apply to plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content. Er, OK.

What the report does say at the end, though, is that the Government’s formal response to the National Infrastructure Assessment will be via a comprehensive National Infrastructure Strategy, which will be issued in 2019. So that’s an NIS to go with the NIC and NIA. ‘In 2019’ looks a bit vague, though – I hope the Government isn’t forgetting that it is supposed to respond by 10 January 2019, with a backstop date of 10 July 2019. I have a feeling that this interim response is supposed to satisfy the January date and the full response will come out at some point that may or may not comply with the backstop date.

What the NIS should contain, in my view, is statements like, taking the example above: ‘The Government hereby sets/does not agree it should set* a target for recycling 65% of municipal waste and 75% of plastic packaging by 2030’ (*delete as necessary). From what we’ve seen so far it doesn’t look very promising that it will.

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