Rishi Sunak is set to unveil the government’s national infrastructure strategy next week, including long-term investments in the climate and transport sectors and plans to narrow the north-south divide.
The strategy, which the chancellor had been due to be published in March, provides £100bn to improve connectivity in transport systems and work toward the government’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. It includes a down payment on flagship programmes including fibre broadband, flood defences and transport schemes, according to the Treasury.
Sunak will announce the plans on Wednesday along with his spending review, which will provide tens of billions of pounds for infrastructure investment, including £1.6bn to tackle potholes.
The strategy is also designed to push back against accusations of a discrepancy in funding for the north and south of England. The Treasury confirmed Sunak would be changing the department’s green book, a set of regulations that determines the value of government schemes and which is said to favour London and the south-east of England.
Sunak will also introduce a new national infrastructure bank, which will have its headquarters somewhere in the north of England. The bank will be launched next year to replace the work of the European Investment Bank after the UK leaves the EU.
The Treasury also said it would announce the location of its new northern headquarters in the coming weeks, part of a wider drive to get more civil servants to work outside London.
“We are absolutely committed to levelling-up opportunities so those living in all corners of the UK get their fair share of our future prosperity,” Sunak said.
“All nations and regions of the UK have benefited from our unprecedented £200bn Covid support package. And after a difficult year for this country, this spending review will help us build back better by investing over £600bn across the UK during the next five years.”
Jake Berry, who leads a group of Tory MPs representing the north of England, welcomed the chancellor’s announcement. He said it demonstrated that Sunak had “‘levelling-up’ at the heart of this government’s agenda”.
Unions and the Labour Party have criticised the chancellor over reports that he would announce a pay limit as part of the spending review, although NHS doctors and nurses are expected to be exempt.
The shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, described the measures as “more empty rhetoric”.
“The Conservatives have been in power for 10 long years, but their track record is a litany of failure and broken promises,” she said.
The former shadow chancellor John McDonnell suggested the Treasury had got the ideas for policies including the national investment bank, the overhaul of the Treasury green book and the move north from Labour’s 2019 manifesto.
“We’ll see whether it is on the scale needed to address the decade of Tory underinvestment, match the catastrophic climate crisis we face and whether it will tackle the grotesque levels of inequality they have created or line the pockets of their friends in big business,” he tweeted.