Where were the roads? And will this budget be good news for councils?

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond making his Budget statement to MPs in the House of Common

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond making his Budget statement to MPs in the House of Commons. Picture: PA Wire - Credit: PA

From Suffolk’s point of view this was as much a budget about what wasn’t in as much as it was about what was in!

Over the weekend it had been trailed that the Chancellor would announce a £29bn budget for new roads across the country – and campaigners were preparing to use this as a way of pressing the case for major investment in the A14 in Suffolk.

In the event that particular funding stream was not announced by Mr Hammond, forcing the Suffolk Chamber to re-draft its comments on the scheme.

The funding is expected to feature in the notes on the budget due to be published over the next 24 hours – but its omission was surprising after the Chancellor did mention £420m for pothole repairs.

One new element of the budget that will go down well at Suffolk and Essex county councils was the announcement of £650m nationally of additional expenditure on social care.

This will not be an answer to all their financial headaches, but a few millions for each should ease the pressure on departments that are facing a worrying time at the moment.

Another element of infrastructure announced in the budget that would impact this region was the Chancellor’s announcement of more financial help to rebuild the “missing link” rail line between Cambridge and Bedford.

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This is an integral part of the proposed new “Varsity line” from Cambridge to Oxford – and it is expected that some of the trains will be extended to Ipswich once the route is fully opened during the second half of the 2020s.

That is seen as being a major boost for the Suffolk economy, linking it with the hi-tech arc of wealthy communities to the north of London.

Suffolk’s brewers and cider makers will be raising a glass to the Chancellor after he froze excise duties on their products, although the county’s vineyards may be disappointed that wine will see duty go up in line with inflation.

Overall though, despite repeated claims that the budget represented the beginning of the end of the age of austerity, this year’s budget will not go down as a watershed.

And as Mr Hammond said over the weekend, if we get no deal on Brexit we should be prepared to face another budget in a few months time!

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