Osborne to set up new infrastructure commission – transport in Manchester

The Chancellor will unveil a new independent national board to review spending.

George Osborne will promise to break Britain’s transport spending ‘inertia’ in his conference speech – with plans for HS3 top of the list.

The Chancellor will unveil a new independent national board to review spending priorities for transport, house building and power stations in each region, to be headed up by Labour peer Lord Adonis.

His policy is a brazen lift of a Labour manifesto pledge at the last election – which was drawn up by Lord Adnois – and will see him resign his party whip.

Treasury sources – who referred to the move as a ‘sweeping’ change in the way spending is planned – said the first issue it will look at will be joining up major cities with modern transport links, often referred to as ‘HS3’.

It will also report back regularly on the progress of government infrastructure projects and spending, much as the Office for Budget Responsibility does for the economy.

Mr Osborne is expected to say to conference in Manchester: “Where would Britain be if we had never built railways or runways, power stations or new homes?

“I’m not prepared to turn round to my children – or indeed anyone else’s child – and said I’m sorry, we didn’t build for you.

“We have to shake Britain out of its inertia on the projects that matter the most.”

The news comes after the Tories dramatically ‘unpaused’ northern rail electrification ahead of conference, after facing a backlash over the move in the summer.

It is unclear exactly how the new body will interact with Transport for the North, the coalition of northern councils set up – and handed £30m – in the summer budget to ‘set out transport policies and investment policies’ in a ‘long-term strategy’.

Sources said TfN, which has been spearheaded by Manchester council leader Sir Richard Leese, would ‘feed in’ to the review.

In addition the Chancellor will also announce plans to merge the country’s 89 local government pension funds, including Greater Manchester’s, into five or six regional pots of around £25bn each – so they are big enough to invest in infrastructure projects.

Greater Manchester’s pension fund already controls £16bn in assets.

Legally the new pots cannot be forced to choose infrastructure – but the Treasury believes they are far more likely to do so with access to greater funds.

Story courtesy of Manchester Evening News – transport in manchester

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