Budget 2021: Chancellor Rishi Sunak's difficult task to balance the books and Yorkshire must get regional investment - The YP says

The Chancellor faces an extraordinarily difficult task when he presents his Budget on Wednesday, given the pressures on the public finances as a consequence of the pandemic.

There can be no doubt that Rishi Sunak did the right thing in borrowing vast amounts to see the country through the ravages of Covid. It is thanks to his swift and decisive action on furlough and business support that countless jobs have been saved.

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But now comes the reckoning. Balancing the books will be a monumental problem, and Mr Sunak yesterday warned the nation that the cost of doing so may well be painful.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak

In particular, the Chancellor’s admission that he may be forced to go against his political instincts and raise taxes to fund £26bn of spending on the most pressing issues will be greeted with dismay by businesses and individuals who are already feeling the squeeze on their own budgets.

There will also be concern in this region that Mr Sunak’s lack of room for manoeuvre on spending will jeopardise the Government’s levelling-up agenda, which is of such importance to the north.

As the Northern Powerhouse Partnership points out, there is a conspicuous lack of commitment from Mr Sunak to funding the eastern leg of HS2 to Sheffield and Leeds.

And whilst leaked announcements of additional spending on the region’s buses and the South Yorkshire tram network are welcome, they fall a long way short of the transformative investment in transport that is so desperately needed if our economy is to realise its full potential.

Although there must be a degree of understanding of Mr Sunak’s difficulties in presenting a Budget to take Britain forward against a difficult backdrop, this region will be scrutinising his speech for evidence that he is doing enough to make promises of levelling-up a reality.