The Government intends to pursue a policy of investment in both infrastructure and skills with the intention of fostering economic growth. This continues with the ‘levelling-up’ strategy outlined within the Budget and the Finance Act which received Royal Assent on 22 July. The Prime Minister has clearly stated that there will not be a ‘return to austerity’ reminiscent of the economic response to the 2008 Financial Crisis.
On the 30thJune the Prime Minister announced a “New Deal” which puts jobs and infrastructure at the centre of the government’s economic growth strategy. This will take the form of £5bn of capital investment projects, supporting jobs and the economic recovery, including:
- £1.5bn this year for hospital maintenance, eradicating mental health dormitories, enabling hospital building, and improving A&E capacity. This will improve patient care, make sure NHS hospitals can deliver world-leading services and reduce the risk of coronavirus infections.
- £100m this year for 29 projects in our road network to get Britain moving, from bridge repairs in Sandwell to boosting the quality of the A15 in the Humber region. Plus £10m for development work to unblock the Manchester rail bottleneck, which will begin this year.
- Over £1bn to fund the first 50 projects of a new, ten-year school rebuilding programme, starting from 2020-21. These projects will be confirmed this Autumn, and construction on the first sites will begin from September 2021.
- £560m and £200m for repairs and upgrades to schools and FE colleges respectively this year.
- £142m for digital upgrades and maintenance to around 100 courts this year, £83m for maintenance of prisons and youth offender facilities, and £60m for temporary prison places, creating thousands of new jobs.
- £900m for a range of ‘shovel ready’ local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next, as well as £96m to accelerate investment in town centres and high streets through the Towns Fund this year. This will provide all 101 towns selected for town deals with £500k-£1m to spend on projects such as improvements to parks, high streets, and transport.
As we recover from Covid-19, the Government aims to deliver an economy which is stronger, greener, more sustainable and more resilient. No government could expect to have all the answers itself. I was therefore pleased that, in June, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy launched five new ‘recovery roundtables’ bringing together businesses, business representative groups and leading academics, to unleash Britain’s growth potential and help the economy recover from the pandemic. The group will focus on: the future of industry; a green recovery; backing new businesses; increasing opportunity; and winning more high value investment in the UK. I welcome the £2 billion Green Homes Grant announced by the Chancellor in his Summer Statement, during which he pledged “a green recovery with concern for our environment at its heart.”
The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection. When making these decisions, the Government is committed to helping people who have suffered from violence, including torture, at an early point in the asylum process so that decision makers can grant protection, where necessary, without undue delay. I fully appreciate that in these situations, claimants may be under severe emotional pressure, which is why the Home Office provides relevant information to asylum claimants throughout the process, including signposting to any support they may require. All asylum claimants are provided with a comprehensive leaflet that sets out what to expect at the asylum interview, the possible outcomes of the asylum claim, how to obtain legal advice to support their claim, details of support organisations that might be relevant, rights and responsibilities of asylum seekers, and information about asylum support and how to apply. From the 15 June, the cash allowance was raised from £37.75 to £39.60, representing a rise of around 5 per cent. It is important to consider that this is significantly higher than general inflation which data showed was 0.8 per cent in the 12 months to April 2020.