Minister’s ‘chunky money’ for roads


Published: Friday 31st October 2014 by The News Editor

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The Government will use the Autumn Statement to set out plans for major road improvement projects, Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander has confirmed.

The Cabinet minister said George Osborne’s statement on December 3 would be used to give details of schemes to improve key routes including the A303 in south west England, the A1 and the A47.

Mr Alexander said the road network had been “really neglected” since the 1970s but “pretty chunky sums of money” had been set out for improvements.

He told The House magazine that the Government would set out detailed plans for routes of “major strategic importance”.

“Our road network has been really neglected since the 1970s. You’ve had 30 or 40 years of nothing much happening,” he said.

“We set out some pretty chunky sums of money for the roads, growing over the course of the next Parliament, and I want to fill out for people what we are going to do with that.”

He said the A303 was a “key economic artery” in the South West.

“That route and others around the country, I want to use the Autumn Statement to set out ‘This is what we are going to do over the next five to 10 years and this is the vision for what we actually want this route to be’.

” The Chancellor has been talking about the ‘northern powerhouse’ and all that. I want to do something similar for some other parts of the country.

“There are six routes which we identified are ones that are of major strategic importance to the country. The A303 is one, the A1 north of Newcastle is another, the A47 is a third.”

“We want to fill in some of those gaps, give some more detail, not just objectives but detailed plans for what we can do.”

The Liberal Democrat minister said he would make sure that, if the party remained in Government after 2015, tax rises would play a part in making sure deficit reduction was “fair”.

But he rejected a suggestion from his colleague, Vince Cable, that up to 40% of the money to cut the deficit should come from tax rises, with 60% from spending cuts.

Mr Alexander said the plans for 80% of the deficit reduction to come from spending cuts with 20% from tax hikes was the best approach.

Mr Cable said earlier this month that it was “difficult to see” how Whitehall spending departments like his own Department for Business, Innovation and Skills could sustain further cuts on that scale.

Asked whether he would rather see tax rises take 30% or 40% of the burden of deficit reduction, in order to relieve the pressure on public services like the police, armed services and local government, he told BBC2’s Newsnight: “I wasn’t naming a number but certainly directionally that’s right.”

But Mr Alexander said: ” The Conservatives have said all of this has to be done through spending cuts. Vince is absolutely right to say, as I would say, that we have to be careful about where we find those savings.

“But, as I said in my conference speech, my priority is to use tax as the instrument to make sure that the overall balance is fair. I think 80-20 broadly achieves that, 78-22 or 79-21 that doesn’t bother me.”

He added: “My own view as the person who has spent time in Government actually looking at all these budgets is that the remaining savings can be safely achieved with that sort of balance overall.

“To my mind it’s much more about what is the right way to handle this in terms of having a deficit reduction programme that is sustainable and delivers results for the country. All the evidence is that that sort of balance that I’m suggesting is best.”

Published: Friday 31st October 2014 by The News Editor

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