Coronavirus: UK’s Johnson unveils $6bn plan to build back economy

Much of the spending will go to building or repairing hospitals, roads and bridges, transport and schools.

Boris Johnson
The United Kingdom's Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Dudley College of Technology in Dudley, UK, set out a vision where the government could cut through red tape to speed up infrastructure projects [Paul Ellis/Reuters]

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out plans on Tuesday to try to spur the UK’s economy, promising to fast-track 5 billion British pounds ($6.15bn) of infrastructure investment and to “build, build, build” out of the coronavirus crisis.

In a speech, Johnson set out a vision where the government could cut through red tape to speed up construction and infrastructure projects and kick-start the economy to “level up” wealth and opportunity in the UK.

Much of the spending will be targeted at northern and central England, where many voters who had traditionally supported the opposition Labour Party backed the governing Conservatives in last year’s election.

Johnson unveiled new planning rules on Tuesday to boost the number of homes and allow commercial premises to be repurposed more easily.

He pledged 1.5 billion pounds ($1.84bn) this year for hospital maintenance, eradicating mental health dormitories, enabling hospital building and improving Accident and Emergency capacity.

Johnson also pledged 100 million pounds ($123m) this year for 29 projects in the road network, from bridge repairs in Sandwell in the Midlands to boosting the quality of the A15 in the Humber region of eastern England. He also pledged 10 million pounds ($12m) for development work to unblock the Manchester rail bottleneck, which will begin this year.

Johnson pledged more than 1 billion pounds ($1.23bn) to fund the first 50 projects of a new, 10-year school rebuilding programme, starting from 2020 and 2021. These projects will be confirmed in the autumn, and construction on the first sites will begin from September 2021.

He also announced 560 million pounds ($688m) and 200 million pounds ($246m) for repairs and upgrades to schools and further education colleges respectively this year.

He pledged 900 million pounds ($1.1bn) for a range of “shovel ready” local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next, as well as 96 million pounds ($118bn) to accelerate investment in town centres and high streets through the Towns Fund this year. This will provide all 101 towns selected for town deals with between 500,000 ($614,000) and 1 million pounds (1.2m) to spend on projects such as improvements to parks, high streets and transport.

“We will … build back greener and build a more beautiful Britain,” Johnson said.

He also recommitted to reforesting Britain by planting over 75,000 acres of trees every year by 2025.

He pledged 40 million pounds ($49m) to boost local conservation projects and create 3,000 jobs, including new conservation rangers, and safeguard 2,000 – training young people and others in the community.

In his speech, Johnson also said Britain should aim to produce the world’s first zero-emission long-haul jet plane, and he referred to 4,000 new zero-carbon buses and a new plan for cycleways across the country.

Source: Reuters