BRITAIN will be put on to the fastrack to recovery this week with the Prime Minister pledging to “dramatically accelerate” construction.
Boris Johnson is expected to use a speech on Tuesday to lay out his vision of using infrastructure to “level up” opportunity around the nation and to fire up the economy as it emerges from the worst of the coronavirus crisis.
Dubbed Project Speed in Downing Street, his plans will create a taskforce headed by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, with the aim of removing bottlenecks and slashing the time it takes to bring schemes to realisation.
Mr Johnson has already committed to more than £250billion of projects but is to spend billions more accelerating plans for new schools, hospitals, prisons and a revamp of the road network.
It comes as the MPs who helped him sweep away Labour’s “red wall” in December issue a 10-point unofficial manifesto of what Mr Johnson needs to do to repay the trust of new Tory voters in the north of England, Midlands and Wales.
Their demands include fast broadband for every household, urgent investment in transport and high streets, a tougher approach to law and order, more apprenticeships and an acceleration of the “levelling up” agenda.
However, those MPs look set to be pleased with Mr Johnson’s announcement, as the new taskforce will ensure projects are “dramatically accelerated” to “revitalise the UK economy”.
Sources close to the Prime Minister have noted his recognition that the Government was elected on a manifesto “committed to uniting and levelling up the country”, and he has always placed high-quality infrastructure at the heart of delivering this pledge to boost jobs, productivity and growth.
He will point out in Tuesday’s speech that the UK “has a proud heritage in building outstanding infrastructure – from the Victorians’ pioneering railways, to the Thames Barrier that protects millions of Londoners from flooding”. But it is understood that he is worried that in the past, it has often taken years – if not decades – to take a project from idea to completion, so people have not seen the benefits until far too late.
The Infrastructure Delivery Taskforce will look across the full range of public investment projects and cut delivery times. It will address outdated practices and identify blocks to progress, so projects are delivered more quickly and efficiently to best meet the needs of the people they are designed for.
This approach will be applied to trailblazer projects including 40 new hospitals, 10,000 prison places and school rebuilding.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The coronavirus response has shown that it doesn’t have to take years to get essential projects off the ground – the Nightingale hospitals and ventilator challenge were up and running in weeks.
“As we recover from the pandemic we must apply that same urgency to the major projects at the foundations of this country and get them done right, to level up opportunity across the UK. There’s now no excuse for delays. Infrastructure has the power to rebuild and repair our country – and we will do it better, faster and more strategically than before.” Meanwhile, the new generation of Conservative MPs who won the trust of voters in Britain’s former industrial heartlands have set out how Mr Johnson can deliver for their communities.
Ashfield MP Lee Anderson, an ex-miner, wants Britain restored as a manufacturing powerhouse. He said: “We still have that in our DNA and we want to get back to that.” He welcomes pledges to deliver extra police and would like prisoners to serve full sentences.
Mark Fletcher, who stood against Labour firebrand Dennis Skinner, has pushed for Bolsover to be designated a “green enterprise zone” in the hope it will become a centre for low-carbon manufacturing and research.
Mansfield’s Ben Bradley wants to see the “levelling up agenda supercharged”. He wants colleges to “offer premises, staff time and expertise to support budding entrepreneurs” and calls for the creation of new courses – offered free to anyone who has lost a job – that will give them the skills they need to find work in growing parts of the economy.
Alexander Stafford, who took Rother Valley from Labour, met with the chancellor a fortnight ago and insists the Government has not lost its enthusiasm for levelling up. Esther McVey, who heads up the 169-strong group of Blue Collar Conservative MPs, has made the case to scrap business rates to save the high street and provide superfast broadband to all homes. North West Durham MP Richard Holden said: “We want to focus on that levelling-up agenda to continue repaying the trust the British people placed in us.”
Death toll has now risen to 43,514 there were 100 more coronavirus deaths recorded yesterday.
This figure is down from last Saturday’s 130 deaths.
It also represents the lowest Saturday total since March 21.
The Department of Health and Social Care says there have now been a total of 43,514 deaths.
Red Wall Tories’ Top 10 calls for action. Supercharge the levelling-up agenda and invest in the buildings and infrastructure in the North and Midlands, ending the focus on London and the South-East. Promote digital inclusion – bring high-quality broadband to every home. Save our high streets by giving them not just a facelift but a real cash injection. Replace business rates with a fairer sales tax of which Amazon pays its fair share . Massively expand the number of apprenticeships. Get tough on law and order. Build thousands of affordable homes. Invest in local transport. Make Britain the world leader in green technology. Make Britain a manufacturing powerhouse again.