13 March 2020
Budget – A Proper Plan

Tackling Disconnection: My Crusade for Better Connectivity and Opportunity for the People and Places Left Behind

Tacking what I have called the crisis of disconnection” has been at the heart of my political mission. 

Thats why I...

  • Launched Mind The Gap! in 2003 
  • Launched PositivePolitics! in 2004 
  • Launched The Norfolk Way in 2007 
  • And why I continue to drive forward my ongoing campaign for a major government effort to modernise our infrastructure and better spread opportunity – here in the East and nationwide. 

This region – and this country – is home to some of the most exciting sectors of fast growing economic innovation in the world, creating new companies, clusters and careers for a new generation, and the science and technology that underpins them. 

But:

  • Poor infrastructure and connectivity means that areas like Mid Norfolk –in fact much of rural and coastal East Anglia – only 50miles or so from Cambridge – sees very little benefit.
  • This means continuing pockets of deprivation and poverty which with better access to jobs and investment would disappear.
  • And it means that the overall growth potential (and therefore tax receipts for public services) of our country and region is held back.

This is bonkers.

Having had a career helping found and finance high growth companies in that space – particularly in Biotechnology, MedTech, Agritech and Cleantech – I can see huge opportunities for our area and our country if we can invest in good research, help commercialise it properly and build a more innovative economy better connected to the fastest emerging global export markets.

These high growth sectors – which Norfolk and East Anglia is especially strong in – create jobs and opportunities for everyone – not just “boffins”.

Thats why I have campaigned consistently over the last decade for successive Governments to commit to major investment in these areas. 

Im delighted that the Chancellor in this post-election Budget has signalled the new Governments commitment to this agenda with:

·         A record £22bn a year investment boost for Research and Development in UK Science – great news for the likes of Norwich Research Park and our many innovative companies and clusters around the country.

·         £4.2bn for transport networks in our city regions, including funding for a new rail station at Cambridge South – strengthening the Governments commitment to East-West Rail and better connecting Norwich and the East to our countrys key science and innovation clusters.

·         £500m a year to tackle potholes and improve road surfaces.

·         A share for Norwich of the Governments £1.2bn Transforming Cities Fund – enabling the delivery of improved transport links.

This is in addition to the funding already announced:

  • £5billion for a massive Bus Reinvestment programme
  • £5billion Town Regeneration Fund
  • £3bn for clean green low emission transport
  • £billions for new housing including long overdue new Council housing
  • Overall - £100billion of funding for infrastructure.

Now the question is HOW to make this money available in a way that maximises its impact for the people and places left behind by generating:

  • Sustainable growth 
  • Big additional private sector investment from Business 
  • New career opportunities
  • New export markets 

Given how poor the UK has been historically in delivering major infrastructure and local regeneration, it is critical that the new Government avoid these mistakes of the past and ensure this once-in-a-generation funding makes a lasting difference. 

Liberated from being a Minister in the Government, I have decided to commit myself in this Parliament to working to try and help solve this problem by working with councils, businesses, LEPs, Mayors and Government to try and create the local economic Partnerships that can actually deliver. 

Watch this space and blog for updates on that mission.

Here to start are:

·         My speech in Parliament on the Regeneration challenge 

·         My interview on the Today Programme

·         My interview on BBC Daily Politics