Investment in infrastructure, innovation to increase productivity and a major house-building programme were the three main themes to emerge from Chancellor Hammond's first Autumn Statement.
In addition to a £151 million allocation to the east of England as part of country-wide third wave of Growth Deals, the biggest boost for the region came when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that a Science & Innovation Audit (SIA) will be conducted in the East of England.
The decision was made in response to a regional submission from a wide-ranging consortium led by industry and academia, with the Hertfordshire LEP area leading in two technology areas: Life Sciences (Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst) and Agri-tech (Rothamsted). Read the full press release here.
Other Autumn Statement key findings are listed here:
The Government is to award £1.8 billion to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across England through a third round of Growth Deals, with £151 million allocated to the east of England. Awards to individual LEPs are due to be announced in the coming months. The government will also consult on lending local authorities up to £1 billion at a new local infrastructure rate to support projects that are high value for money.
NATIONAL PRODUCTIVITY INVESTMENT FUND
This new £23bn fund will be targeted at four areas that are critical for improving productivity: housing, transport, digital communications, and research and development (R&D) with:
£2.3bn to deliver infrastructure for up to 100,000 new homes “in areas of high demand”; an additional £1.4 billion to deliver 40,000 affordable homes;
£4.7 billion to enhance the UK’s position as a world leader in science and innovation with the East of England one of eight regions to be selected for a Science & Innovation Audit (SIA);
£2.6 billion to tackle congestion and ensure the UK’s transport networks are fit for the future; with an extra £220 million to be invested to tackle key pinch-points on strategic roads;
over £1 billion to support the roll out of full-fibre connections and future 5G communications; prioritising full-fibre connections for businesses;
£400 million into venture capital funds through the British Business Bank to support innovation.
The Government has accepted NIC’s recommendation for an Oxford-Cambridge expressway to support the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford growth corridor, and will provide £27 million in development funding. This is set to have major benefits for Hertfordshire and its place at the heart of The Golden Research Triangle (Oxford-London-Cambridge).
The Government will also bring forward £100 million to accelerate construction of the East-West Rail line western section and allocate £10 million in development funding for the central rail section. A corridor running in an arc above the north of the county between Bedford – Sandy – Cambridge is the preferred choice for the Central section of East West Rail, bringing potential east-west connectivity benefits for Hertfordshire.
A further £450 million will be used to trial digital signalling technology with around £80 million to accelerate the roll out of smart ticketing.
The National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage will increase from April 2017 with £4.3 million to be spent on helping small businesses to understand the rules and cracking down on employers who are breaking the law by not paying the minimum wage.