The Prime Minister committed to spending billions of pounds on flood defences as he unveiled the Conservative Party’s manifesto for the General Election amid the continued fallout from deluges devastating parts of Yorkshire.
Despite Boris Johnson’s refusal to declare a national emergency after the River Don burst its banks earlier this month, the Tories yesterday said that £4bn in new funding would be made available to protect communities from the effects of such downpours.
In a manifesto that has been branded by one business expert “remarkable” for its lack of policies, Mr Johnson did pledge to build Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester, after which the government would focus on transport in Liverpool, Tees Valley, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle.
The manifesto describes high speed rail plans under HS2 as a “great ambition”, but said it would cost at least £81bn and not reach Leeds or Manchester until as late as 2040. Pledging only to “work with leaders” in the north and the Midlands, the Conservatives said they would consider the findings of Douglas Oakervee’s review into the project.
“In this manifesto there is a vision for the future in which we unite our country,” claimed Mr Johnson. “It is time to unleash the potential of our country and forge a new Britain.”
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said that businesses would be “heartened by a pro-enterprise vision” in the manifesto, however deputy director-general Josh Hardie said that “the inconvenient truth remains: sustainable economic growth will be risked if there is a needless rush for a bare bones Brexit deal that would slow down our domestic progress for a generation”.
At his speech in Telford, Mr Johnson had again vowed to “get Brexit done”.
Mr Hardie added: “Significant investment in local infrastructure will drive growth and reduce regional inequalities.
“To get the UK moving, the next Government must match it with unequivocal backing for key projects like HS2 and Heathrow.”
The manifesto says that the Conservatives would prioritise the environment in their first budget as it outlines the £4bn for flood defences. Earlier this month, communities in the Sheffield and Doncaster flooded and the speed of the government’s reaction was criticised.
The Conservatives said they would not support fracking “unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely”. The party introduced a moratorium on the controversial energy extraction process this year.
The manifesto also pledged a “triple tax lock” with no increases in income tax, national insurance and VAT for five years.
The party committed to an additional 20,000 police officers and 50,000 extra nurses with the return of nurse bursaries.
Although £1bn of funding was committed to social care in every year of the next Parliament, there was no announcement on a any act of parliament in regard to the sector.
A new deal for towns, cutting taxes for small high street
retailers and installing more CCTV, an Australian-style points based system for immigration after Britain has left the European Union and a pledge to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050 all featured.
Paul Johnson, Institute for Fiscal Studies director, said: “If the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos were notable for the scale of their ambitions the Conservative one is not. If a single
Budget had contained all these tax and spending proposals we would have been calling it modest.”
He added: “As a blueprint for five years in government the lack of significant policy action is remarkable.”