Chancellor Sajid Javid today promised the country an "infrastructure revolution" as he set out a cash boost for areas including health and education in a pre-election spending spree.
In his first major Commons speech since taking on the job, promised an "ambitious strategy" for new investment and that a National Infrastructure Strategy would be published later this year.
While there was little detail about specific infrastructure improvements, he promised £200 million of increased funding to transform bus services to pay for ultra-low emissions buses and trials of new, on-demand services to respond to passenger needs in real time.
And he confirmed the Government's commitment to funding a high speed rail link between Leeds and Manchester, a promise first made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a speech in Manchester.
Promising he was "turning the page on austerity", the Chancellor said the "uncertainty" around Brexit could not distract from delivering on the "people's priorities".
He said: "We are turning the page on austerity and beginning a new decade of renewal.
"A new economic era needs a new economic plan and today we lay the foundations with the fastest increase in day-to-day spending in 15 years."
Luke Raikes, Senior Research Fellow at think-tank IPPR North, said: “Today the government simply repeated a vague promise to invest in Northern transport, and has presented no plan or funding to do so. The government’s rhetoric on the North is a long way from the reality on the ground.
“Since the government first started talking about the Northern Powerhouse, the number of delayed and cancelled trains in the North has doubled. Meanwhile transport spending per person on London has increased by twice as much as in the North.”
Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of NP11 and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “To deliver an economy that is future-proof, it’s a no brainer that the North should be front and centre of plans for the UK’s prosperity and competitiveness after Brexit.
"The Chancellor’s commitment to the Manchester to Leeds section of Northern Powerhouse Rail is welcome news and a good start towards helping to rebalance the UK’s economy. It’s also pleasing to hear funding committed for wider LEP priorities including town centre high-streets, local bus services and combating climate change.
“As business leaders have made clear in recent months, delivering both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in tandem with a City Centre station in Bradford, will be crucial to enabling the North to prosper in the decades ahead.
"The Chancellor referred to the need to kickstart the country’s infrastructure revolution, and together, these two transformational rail projects have the potential to make this happen."
Measures announced by the Chancellor included:
- Councils will have access to an additional £1.5 billion to fund social care next year;
- A 6.3% real terms increase in Home Office spending;
- Funding for homelessness will rise by 13%, an extra £54 million;
- A £6.2 billion increase in NHS funding;
- £2.2 billion for the Ministry of Defence.
The Government has faced years of criticism over the UK's ageing infrastructure, particularly in the North where spending levels have lagged behind London and the South East.
Mr Javid said: "It isn’t good enough that we’re so far behind on infrastructure.
It isn’t good enough that so many commuters spend their mornings staring at a delayed sign on the train platform.
"It isn’t good enough that our small business owners waste so much time because of slow internet speeds and poor mobile connections.
"We’re going to change that. We want faster broadband for everyone in the country. Quicker mobile connections and better signal coverage. Cleaner energy, greener transport, and more affordable fuel bills for our homes and offices.
"We want more trains and buses to connect the great cities of the North. We want to build world class schools and hospitals.
"We want to push the frontiers of science and technology and turbocharge our ambition on research and development.
"We want to build and invest in every region and nation of this United Kingdom.
"From the motor highway to the information highway, we’ll settle for nothing less than an infrastructure revolution.
"We’ll bring forward detailed plans at Budget later this year alongside an ambitious strategy for this new investment."
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell branded the statement a piece of "grubby electioneering" and accused the Government of "pretending to end austerity when they do nothing of the sort".
The spending plan for a single year was fast-tracked to clear the decks ahead of Brexit, with the normal multi-year settlement planned for next year.
Mr Javid pledged to "put the wheels back on the Great British bus" with a funding boost worth more than £200 million.
The Chancellor said the money will go towards investment in ultra low emission vehicles and trials of on-demand services "to respond to passenger needs in real time".
Mr Javid, whose father was a bus driver, told MPs: "Having watched him work, I know that local buses can be a lifeline for many communities, so today we put the wheels back on the Great British bus with more than £200 million to transform bus services across the country."
He joked that the Government will set out more details "once my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has finished painting models for them".
In February, the Department for Transport announced £48 million in funding for 263 ultra low emissions buses which it said at the time would double the size of the UK fleet.