East firms 'disappointed' budget didn't go further with green recovery
- Credit: Siemens
Regional businesses hoping for a big "green recovery " boost from the Budget say they have been left underwhelmed.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new UK Infrastructure Bank to fund green growth in his budget - but East of England companies involved in the sector feel his announcements failed to live up to their hopes.
Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband - which is installing full-fibre broadband networks across rural parts of the East of England - welcomed the new UK Infrastructure Bank but suspected it would not help in the roll-out of a superfast network across harder-to-reach areas such as those in East Anglia.
The bank will be bolstered with £12bn in capital with the aim of unlocking £40bn worth of public and private sector projects to support a green industrial revolution.
"We see this as more of a ‘fund’ rather than a transactional bank, operating in a similar way and, directly replacing, the European Infrastructure Bank that British businesses no longer have access to post Brexit," he explained.
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Construction consultancy Ingleton Wood, which has offices in Colchester and Norwich and operates across the region, said it too had been hoping for more of a "green tinge" to the budget.
Partner Laura Mansel-Thomas said they had hoped the budget would look to drive more sustainable job creation and economic recovery.
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“While we welcome the renewed pledge to accelerate the green industrial revolution we are disappointed by the lack of flagship support," she said.
“We’re often left frustrated by insufficient clarity on who exactly holds the purse strings when it comes to funding green energy. This hinders projects and stifles investment. It’s a handbrake that must be lifted on our roadmap to a greener future."
While they welcomed the chancellor’s comments on his commitment to green growth, they had expected that government would go further, she admitted.
The firm - which has played key roles in green energy projects such as the £1.5bn Galloper Wind Farm off Harwich - was also sceptical about access to funding from the new National Infrastructure Bank.
“The devil will be in the detail and we need to see this backed up by concrete plans and transparency over access to funding and investment in order to provide adequate timescales for the sector to maximise the potential," she said.
“We are committed to helping East Anglia become a flagbearer for renewable energy and will continue to help unleash our region’s huge potential for green energy, from electric vehicle charging to offshore projects in the North Sea.”
Mr Fenton felt the majority any available funding would go to non-digital infrastructure such as the power sector and will not have any impact on the rollout of full-fibre in the UK.
“The biggest hurdle we face is widespread confusion in the consumer market. Existing superfast broadband networks are promoted as ‘fibre’ despite their copper limitations, creating apathy towards real full-fibre which holds back progress," he said.
"We must increase the rate at which we are building full-fibre hyperfast networks now if we are to meet the government’s gigabit coverage targets of 2025. It we wait until the last minute it will already be too late. As the rest of the world races ahead, we don’t want to be left peddling a bicycle.”