New investment in region needs a non-political focus

Mark pendlington, Ben Gummer MP, and Chloe Smith MP, with transport minister Stephen Hammond on Ipsw

Mark pendlington, Ben Gummer MP, and Chloe Smith MP, with transport minister Stephen Hammond on Ipswich Station

There’s been a great deal of good news about investment in the region’s infrastructure over the last few days and it would be churlish not to accept they should be good for the region.

But when I looked at the list of schemes given the go-ahead, I couldn’t avoid the observation that they did seem to be weighted towards marginal seats.

And the timing is very interesting – coming just 10 months before the next general election.

I know the argument will be that the current government has spent just over four years nursing the economy back to health and it is only now showing enough of a recovery to justify this largesse.

But do I really think it would have been prepared to make this kind of announcement just after an election? Something tells me that would not have happened.

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In the months before an election you find money to spend on impressive projects. In the months after an election an incoming government (especially if there has been a change in power) finds reasons why earlier promises are no longer affordable. That’s the nature of politics.

But let’s celebrate this week’s news – and hope that the projects can get under way as soon as possible so they are too far advanced to be stopped after next year’s election.

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Apart from the announcement of new money for the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), there was good news on another major investment issue – Abellio Greater Anglia’s clear commitment to seeing an significant improvement to rail services in the region.

To be fair, I had never really doubted that Abellio – whose Dutch parent company runs one of the most efficient rail systems in Europe – wanted to see a major increase in investment in the region.

But to hear new managing director Jamie Burles emphasise so strongly how important the company sees the new investment – and to hear him saying it is vital whoever gets the long-term franchise was very refreshing.

Until now the campaign has been very much led by MPs with constituencies on the line – Ipswich’s Ben Gummer, Norwich North’s Chloe Smith and Priti Patel from Witham.

With Mr Gummer and Ms Smith representing marginal seats, I get the distinct impression that the “non-political” elements of the campaign – especially the LEP and the rail company – are preparing to take more of a high-profile role in the months ahead.

They are keen to ensure that it does not lose momentum, whatever the result of next year’s general election, and feel it needs to maintain continuity.

Because the improvements will not happen overnight – or even in the life of a single parliament. The bid to boost investment in the region’s rail remains a long-haul.

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