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Chancellor pledges huge cash injection to help councils make urgent road repairs

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Britain’s roads will get the “biggest-ever single cash investment” as the chancellor promises major improvements in the country’s road network.

Speaking in his first broadcast interview ahead of the budget, Philip Hammond has told Sky News he will announce major infrastructure cash injections.

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that revenues from car tax would be used to directly fund what the Treasury is describing as the “biggest-ever single cash investment” in motorways and major roads.

In addition to improving major infrastructure, a portion of the £30bn pledge will be targeted at local authorities to assist them in fixing potholes and other road damage.

“I am going to make some additional money available for local authorities to deal with urgent repairs, potholes in roads, repair work on bridges,” Mr Hammond said.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MARCH 04: A road user tries to avoid potholes on March 4, 2011 in Glasgow, Scotland. Councils across the UK are struggling to repair roads following damage caused by the coldest December since records began. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Fixing pot holes will make a ‘huge difference to people’, the chancellor said

“These are small projects in themselves but they make a huge difference to people and actually they make a huge difference to the efficiency of the road system overall so this is money well spent, well invested.

“But more widely we have to look at investment in our roads and I will be making an important announcement about the hypothecation of vehicle excise duty so that it’s all spent on funding our strategic roads network for the future. That’s an important investment in Britain’s productivity.”

Announcements on “no-interest loans” to help people struggling to repay debt, and a reduction of business rates to assist the high street are also expected.

But Mr Hammond warned the “evolution” of British high streets is here to stay – “for better or worse”.

He told Sky News that “freezing the model of 10 or 20 years ago in aspic won’t work”, predicting that high streets will shrink to make way for housing with fewer retail shops and more food and drink outlets.

The rise of online firms impacts the High Street
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High streets are changing ‘for better or worse’, according to Mr Hammond

There are already demands for the chancellor to go further.

Daniel Cochlin, head of external affairs for the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, told Sky News: “We need investment in HS2 and northern powerhouse rail, it’s not a question of either or, it’s a question of both.

“We want that commitment from government that the northern powerhouse is alive and kicking and is delivering results.

“And I think that really comes in transport, we’ve asked for a very ambitious £100bn to tackle transport and we want some recognition of that in the budget.”

Mr Hammond also announced that if Britain leaves the EU without a deal then a “different approach” to the economy would be required.

“We would need to look at a different strategy and frankly we’d need to have a new budget that set out a different strategy for the future,” he told Sky News.

Stock photo ID:813708562
Upload date:July 11, 2017
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Stephen Hammond MP warned Brexit was limiting the options available

Conservative MP Stephen Hammond, a Europhile member of the Treasury select committee, has said the uncertainty around a Brexit deal has limited the options available to the chancellor.

He said: “We all hope the PM can secure a Brexit deal that will allow the economy to prosperity of our country, but that hasn’t yet been secured and so there must still be a large element of uncertainty

“So it’d be surprising if the chancellor decided after all these years to get out on a spending spree and a splurge. I think it’ll be a measured fiscal loosening but in line with what’s appropriate fiscally.”

The chancellor is under pressure to deliver increased public spending following the Prime Minister’s pledge at Conservative Party Conference to end austerity.

Stronger-than-expected tax receipts in the last year has given Mr Hammond some unexpected headroom, with slower- than-expected government borrowing allowing him an additional £13 billion.

But in addition to setting out how he will fund the extra £20bn that has already been pledged to the NHS, the chancellor faces demands to increase the defence budget and threats of rebellion from some Conservative MPs if additional money is not pumped into Universal Credit.



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Hammond wants to ‘keep Britain moving’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has challenged Theresa May on the issue repeatedly at Prime Minister’s Questions in recent weeks.

In one exchange the prime minister responded by saying: “Austerity is being brought to an end. What is not being brought to an end is fiscal responsibility.”

:: Watch the budget live on Sky News at 3.30pm on Monday

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