Budget tackles labour shortages and funds roads, regeneration and nuclear

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has used the Budget to announce funding for regeneration projects, countering potholes and new nuclear projects.

Hunt (pictured) also announced he would add five construction occupations to the Shortage Occupation List – making it easier for firms to employ foreign workers – and unveiled tax cuts to incentivise investment in plant and machinery.

The government said it will spend over £600bn on “high-quality infrastructure” over the next five years, with an updated National Infrastructure and Construction pipeline to be published later in 2023.

Hunt said the government would fund “Canary Wharf-style” investment zones in 12 locations across the UK, which will receive £80m-worth of tax breaks and favourable rates.

These will include enhanced rates of capital allowance and structural and buildings allowance, as well as relief from stamp duty land tax, business rates and national insurance contributions.

On the broader economy, the chancellor confirmed the UK was no longer predicted to enter a recession this year, adding that inflation is due to more than halve to 2.9 per cent by the end of the year, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The 12 locations will be selected once invited local authorities have bid for money, but 10 will be in the Midlands or North of England, with one each in Wales and Scotland, the chancellor said.

He also said the government had accepted the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee and will place five construction occupations on the Shortage Occupation List. The five occupations recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee, in an interim report of job shortages published today, are bricklayers and masons; roofers, roof tilers and slaters; carpenters and joiners; construction and building trades; and dryliners and plasterers.

The chancellor also said he would re-rate nuclear projects as sustainable, meaning they will have the same investment incentives – such as tax breaks – currently enjoyed by renewable energy projects.

He added that the government would create a new body, Great British Nuclear, “to address constraints in the nuclear market and support new nuclear builds”. The body will launch a competition for small modular reactors, with projects to be funded later if they are proved viable.

He also announced plans to roll out a third round of levelling-up funding, which has so far seen around £4bn pledged to local-council-run projects – including several building projects – around the country.

Funding for tackling potholes will also be increased from £500m a year to £700m a year, and the government will invest £1.5m to repair the Cloodach Bridge in Scotland and £20m to repair the Holyhead Breakwater in Wales.

Separately, Hunt said he would boost mayors’ autonomy by agreeing multi-year single settlements for the mayors of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, so they have greater flexibility and independence to invest in long-term projects.

According to the West Midlands Combined Authority, this will involve £500m of funding for housing and regeneration, with £100m to be spent on supporting the delivery of 4,000 homes and £400m from Homes England to be spent on boosting affordable housing.

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