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Local Infrastructure Investment

Volume 692: debated on Monday 19 April 2021

Infrastructure underpins our economy and improves people’s everyday lives. Over the next five years, the Government plan to deliver over £600 billion in public investment, the highest sustained level since the 1970s as a proportion of GDP. My Department is playing a leading role in that mission by making the biggest changes in the way we support local economic growth in a decade, with around £5 billion of investment through the levelling-up fund and community renewal fund, and our ongoing investment through the £3.6 billion towns fund. At the same time, we are reforming our planning system to build more homes, and ensuring that developers pay their fair share through a simpler, faster and more transparent infrastructure levy.

Aylesbury has seen unprecedented housing growth over the past 25 years and we will see much more in the years to come. Our infrastructure is currently at breaking point, with traffic congestion a real problem for local people. One way of alleviating that would be approval of the Aylesbury spur of East West Rail. What steps can my right hon. Friend take to work across Government, in particular with the Treasury, to secure funding for that vital link to ensure that housing development is matched by the appropriate infrastructure?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the need for transport infrastructure investment in the Milton Keynes-Oxford-Cambridge arc, which is one of the fastest growing and most economically dynamic parts of the country. I understand how important the connection is to his constituents. I know he has met the Chief Secretary of the Treasury and the rail Minister to make the case for connecting Aylesbury to East West Rail, an overall project of which I have been a long-term supporter. He is right that more homes require more infrastructure. That is why we have a £7 billion national homebuilding fund, alongside the new infrastructure levy proposed to capture more of the land value uplift and ensure that when homes are built, they are built with the appropriate infrastructure as well.

It has been a privilege to co-chair the Stocksbridge towns fund board and work with the local community to develop our plans to regenerate the town with £24.1 million of Government investment. However, there are other towns in my constituency, such as Penistone and Chapeltown, that would also benefit from a co-ordinated community-led approach. What plans does my right hon. Friend have to encourage local councils to support communities to develop their own local infrastructure development strategies?

I enjoyed visiting Stocksbridge just over a year ago with my hon. Friend and was delighted to see its £24.1 million town deal announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor at the Budget. I very much look forward to seeing its exciting proposals come to life, including a new visitor centre for a gateway to the Peak district. I recognise the point she makes. She represents many other towns, such as Penistone and Chapeltown. We want to ensure that they, too, can benefit from much needed regeneration funding. That is why bidding is now open for our levelling-up fund, worth £4.8 billion, which will deliver genuine local priorities by putting local support, including that of a Member of Parliament, at the heart of its mission. When I visited Stocksbridge, the birthplace of the modern umbrella, my hon. Friend kindly gave me an umbrella. With the new local town deal and an excellent MP, I am hopeful that the sun will keep shining on her constituency for many years to come.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his earlier answer. Back in 2017, a £200 million funding gap was identified for infrastructure projects in Tendring. As the Secretary of State knows, there is ongoing work to address areas of greatest need, such as roads, hospitals and a personal campaign of mine to upgrade rail services to Clacton and Walton, but our most significant funding gap, as we look to deliver new housing, remains the reported £100 million hole in our adult social care budget. What is my right hon. Friend’s Department doing to address that?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. This year, local councils will have access to an additional £1 billion for social care, on top of continuing all existing social care funding. He is right to raise the point that new housing requires new social infrastructure as much as it does hard infrastructure, in terms of roads and railways. That is why we are bringing forward the infrastructure levy, which will capture more of the land value uplift and ensure that developers pay a fair share. It is also why we are working with local authorities, including Essex County Council, to ensure that they can access the housing infrastructure fund and our new house building fund to get billions of pounds of investment into their communities.

Along with the rest of the Crewe town board, I was very pleased to submit our bid for investment earlier this year to help Crewe to build back better. I campaigned for us to get a town deal and I know what a positive impact it can have. Will the Secretary of State update me on when we can expect to hear what I hope will be positive news for Crewe?

I was delighted to receive Crewe’s town investment plan in January. Having visited my hon. Friend’s constituency many times over the years, I am excited to see the ambitious plans that have been developed for the town centre to welcome visitors and shoppers and creating an integrated High Speed 2 hub station. The plans are very well developed. My officials are currently conducting assessments and I look forward to making an announcement in due course.