Summary: Whilst the Chancellor’s Autumn budget speech was quite light on announcements regarding specific infrastructure projects, there were some references to the funding of infrastructure – in particular technology related infrastructure, including charging infrastructure, autonomous vehicles and the use of geospatial data from government.
So what did the Chancellor say?
Electric Vehicles/charging infrastructure:
The Chancellor acknowledged the increasing investment in electric (and driverless) vehicles and announced a £400 million fund for charging infrastructure, an extra £100 million for the Plug-In-Car Grant and £40 million for research and design into charging.
This is a welcome acknowledgement of the need to fund the infrastructure around electric cars in order for the growth in the electric car sector to continue to grow (and provide the associated clean air benefits), but questions remain on how well the electricity distribution network will cope with the required scale of charging infrastructure required (and what investments will need to be made to reinforce the network).
Autonomous Vehicles/Geospatial data:
The UK government aims to make the United Kingdom the world’s leading nation in autonomous vehicles and has indicated it will make the necessary legislative and regulatory changes to facilitate this. Separately, the Chancellor also announced a new Geospatial Data Commission to develop strategy for using the government’s location data to support economic growth (for example the development of technology and apps).
National Productivity Investment Fund:
The Chancellor increased the lifetime of the fund by one year (to 2022), and increased its aggregate funding from £23 billion to £31 billion. The fund can be accessed by local authorities for key investment areas such as productivity, transport, digital communications, research & development and housing.
The Chancellor announced a further £30 million to trial innovative solutions to improving mobile and digital connectivity of trains (in this instance on the TransPennine route). This will help develop solutions to the problem of a lack of connectivity on trains, though a larger scale investment (or public-private partnership) may be needed to provide a substantive solution to this problem.
Discounted Finance for Local Authorities:
The Chancellor provided an increase of more than £1 billion for discounted lending available to local authorities for investment in ‘high-value infrastructure projects’. The use of Public Works Loan Board financing coupled with municipal targeted government funding will really boost local infrastructure.
Outside of housing (in particular in the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge corridor), there was little by way of major infrastructure investments in the Autumn budget. However, this relative lack of announcements outside of infrastructure in many ways highlights how municipal infrastructure, housing related infrastructure and low carbon investment (largely outside the direct influence of the government) will be central to infrastructure delivery and investment in the coming years.