On Wednesday 15th March, the 2023 Spring Budget was presented to Parliament. The Budget, as set out by Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, contained much that was of interest to transport consultants, as well as to the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT), which has now weighed in with its thoughts on the Government’s spending proposals.
The picture doesn’t look as bleak as it could have been, but support is still needed
One of the headline-grabbing stories accompanying the Spring Budget was the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR)’s forecast that the UK was expected to avoid a technical recession this year.
However, the CIHT said it was “undeniable” that the UK was experiencing a cost-of-living crisis affecting businesses and families alike, which meant there remained a need for support.
CIHT chief executive, Sue Percy CBE, said the organisation was “pleased” to see that the Chancellor’s statement showed a continued focus on the “important role that highways and infrastructure plays in the UK and wider global economy.”
She added that the charity welcomed the Spring Budget’s “focus on providing funding for highway maintenance and local transport across the UK.”
Inflation continues to push up supply-chain costs
An encouraging development coinciding with the Budget as far as many transport consultants were concerned, was the OBR forecasting a drop in inflation from 10.7% to 2.9% by the end of 2023.
Acknowledging the serious pressure that inflation exerts on individuals and businesses alike, the Chancellor took steps including keeping energy bills capped at £2,500 a year – presuming ‘typical’ levels of energy use – until the end of June, and freezing fuel duty.
Ms Percy said the CIHT welcomed the encouraging projections indicating a significant fall in inflation; however, she added that “we would like to see investment plans accounting for the impacts of inflation on the wider supply chain and not only on energy resources.
“Over the next few years, even if at lower rates, supply chain costs will continue to rise, and investments should rely on flexible contingency budgets to account for inflation.”
Local transport given a prominent role
The CIHT also noted that local transport was the subject of “much mention” in the Budget, and highlighted the greater powers that were being handed to mayoral authorities, in the form of “trailblazer” devolution deals.
Also announced by the Chancellor was the addition of a further £200 million to the existing £500 million pothole fund, which can be drawn upon to repair potholes, carry out resurfacing, and repair critical infrastructure on the Local Highway Network (LHN).
CIHT said it was a good thing that the Budget placed such a strong focus on local transport and the impact on the local highways network, given that it represented the UK’s biggest piece of infrastructure.
The membership body said it welcomed the allocation of funding for local maintenance. However, the organisation said it wished to “underline that if the devolution of responsibilities to the local level must be pursued, the Government will have to face the issue of lack of money available to local authorities for both people and resources to deliver effective maintenance and services for a fundamental infrastructure service that impacts upon everyone.”
The CIHT added that it was disappointed by the lack of any mention of funding for biodiversity initiatives, which was something the charity had recommended in its recent publication on ‘Green and Blue Infrastructure’ (GBI).
Our transport consultants are on hand to assist with your next project
There was plenty more to assess in the Spring Budget, with its announcements in relation to “levelling up”, artificial intelligence (AI), and bringing economically inactive people back into the UK workforce, all of relevance or interest to many transport consultants.
Would you like to benefit from our own in-depth knowhow and experience as a transport planning and infrastructure design consultancy during 2023? If so, our team at Transport Planning Associates (TPA) is here to help; please don’t hesitate to reach out to your closest TPA office.