£ 70m for trans­port, but po­lice are given NOTH­ING

Solihull News - - NEWS - JONATHAN WALKER jon. walker@ reach­plc. com

WEST Mid­lands Mayor Andy Street has wel­comed Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond’s an­nounce­ment that the re­gion will get fund­ing of more than £ 70 mil­lion to im­prove pub­lic trans­port in the re­gion.

And Mr Ham­mond also con­firmed that an­other £ 20 mil­lion, an­nounced ear­lier this month, will be al­lo­cated to the West Mid­lands.

This will help fund schemes such as a driver­less “shut­tle” bus ser­vice be­tween Birmingham New Street sta­tion and the Cur­zon Street HS2 sta­tion.

Mr Street, a Con­ser­va­tive, said they would help “our abil­ity to build a strong and re­silient econ­omy that can meet the needs of lo­cal peo­ple and the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties of Brexit.” He added: “The ex­tra fund­ing for trans­port in­fra­struc­ture is es­pe­cially im­por­tant and will help us man­age the in­creased con­ges­tion and dis­rup­tion that comes with a grow­ing econ­omy and the con­struc­tion of ma­jor projects like HS2.

“It will also help us tackle poor air qual­ity.”

But there was fury from Labour politi­cians af­ter Mr Ham­mond re­fused to pro­vide a much- needed boost to cash­strapped po­lice forces such as West Mid­lands Po­lice.

Ear­lier this month, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May told the Con­ser­va­tive con­fer­ence in Birmingham that the Gov­ern­ment was “end­ing aus­ter­ity”.

And de­liv­er­ing his Bud­get speech to Par­lia­ment, Mr Ham­mond said: “The era of aus­ter­ity is fi­nally com­ing to an end.” But he also said the de­tails of fund­ing in­creases for pub­lic ser­vices would be re­vealed in an­other fi­nan­cial state­ment, the spend­ing re­view, to take place next year.

And he hinted that sig­nif­i­cant in­creases would only come about if the UK man­aged to se­cure a good Brexit deal with the EU.

Mr Ham­mond said: “I ex­pect that the ‘ Deal Div­i­dend’ will al­low us to pro­vide fur­ther fund­ing for the Spend­ing Re­view.”

He did an­nounce an ex­tra £ 160 mil­lion specif­i­cally for counter- ter­ror­ism polic­ing.

But there was noth­ing to help po­lice forces strug­gling to cope with cuts to reg­u­lar fund­ing. In­stead, Mr Ham­mond said that Home Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid would “re­view po­lice spend­ing power and fur­ther op­tions for re­form” in De­cem­ber. One op­tion the Gov­ern­ment is be­lieved to be con­sid­er­ing is lift­ing the cap on the po­lice pre­cept, which is added to coun­cil tax bills.

This would al­low Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sion­ers to raise more money for forces by in­creas­ing lo­cal taxes, pos­si­bly adding as much as £ 50 a year to house­hold bills.

Jack Dromey, Labour MP for Birmingham Erd­ing­ton, said: “While the Prime Min­is­ter hailed the ‘ end of aus­ter­ity’ at the Tory Party Con­fer­ence in Birmingham, you’d hardly know it judg­ing by the ac­tions of her Chan­cel­lor in the Bud­get.

“A ‘ re­view’ of po­lice fund­ing and a ‘ bit of ex­tra kit’ for schools are not enough to keep the pub­lic safe or re­cruit enough teach­ers to pro­vide the world- class ed­u­ca­tion our chil­dren de­serve.”

The ex­tra fund­ing for trans­port in­fra­struc­ture is es­pe­cially im­por­tant and will help us man­age the in­creased con­ges­tion and dis­rup­tion that comes with a grow­ing econ­omy and the con­struc­tion of ma­jor projects like HS2. WEST MID­LANDS MAYOR ANDY STREET

Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond be­fore the Bud­get

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