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Ditch big infrastructure projects and focus on more devolution, former Chancellor tells Johnson

03 Mar 2021 2 minutes Read
Westminster Government Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Annika Haas (CC BY 2.0)

Boris Johnson has been told by former Chancellor Philip Hammon to ditch plans for big infrastructure projects and focus on further devolution across the UK.

Hammond said today that a better way to enact Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda was for more devolution.

His comments came as Rishi Sunak prepared to reveal his Budget in the House of Commons this afternoon.

“It’s about thinking about the way we organise and deliver public services,” Philip Hammond, who was Chancellor under Theresa May, Times Radio.

“And speaking for myself, and this is a personal view, I have become increasingly convinced that the key to doing this effectively, is to devolve power more effectively to the great metropolitan areas of our country, to allow them to organise public services in a way that reflects the needs of the societies the communities that they serve.”

In Wales, the UK Government have threatened to overrule the devolved Welsh Government in order to build a £1.6bn bypass for the M4 around Newport.

Building the road has also become a key plank of the Conservatives’ campaign for the Senedd election on 6 May.

‘Problem’

Sunak’s Budget is expected to a mix of funding for Covid support extensions – including the furlough scheme, VAT cut for retail and hospitality and business rates holiday – as well as an increase in corporation tax.

Rishi Sunak has said he will “level” with people about the state of the nation’s finances as the Budget deficit is set to exceed £400bn.

“I think we have got to get a balance right between restraining public spending and increasing taxes and we’re going to have to do both,” Hammond told Times Radio.

“Anybody who says that the challenge can be met only by increases in taxation, or only by cuts in public spending is not being straight with people. And the scale of this problem means that we are going to have to do both.”

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