Belfast Telegraph

Areas to face their 'economic destiny' amid growth-supporting Budget

The Government has pledged to support growth across Britain by giving local areas more control over their "economic destiny".

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in his Budget speech that he has reached an agreement with London Mayor Sadiq Khan on further devolution to the capital.

The memorandum of understanding includes "joint working" to examine the benefits of "locally-delivered criminal justice services", action to tackle congestion and exploring a new approach to funding infrastructure projects.

He said productivity barriers across the Midlands would be addressed by the publication of the Government's Midlands Engine Strategy on Thursday.

The Government is also in discussions with Greater Manchester on future transport funding, Mr Hammond added.

The Chancellor said: "Across Britain, local areas will take control of their own economic destiny. And we will support them."

Mr Khan said: " Today's London Devolution Agreement shows that we get the best deal for Londoners when we put party politics aside and work closely with the Government.

"I am pleased that the Chancellor has recognised that giving London more control is vital if we are to protect jobs and investment in the aftermath of Brexit.

"London has a bigger population than Wales and Scotland combined, but we have far less control over how taxes are spent and public services are run."

It was announced that £690 million out of a £1.1 billion fund launched in the Autumn Statement is to be comp etitively allocated to local authorities to "get local transport networks moving".

The North is to receive £90 million and the Midlands £23 million from a pot of £220 million to combat congestion pinch points. The fund was also first announced last year.

AA president Edmund King said: "The AA is pleased to see the Government is continuing with its investment in road building and easing congestion.

"We know from Department for Transport statistics that, if there is traffic on the road, you need on average an extra 41 minutes to make a one-hour journey.

"The Government needs to work faster in tackling congestion without compromising safety."

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: "S pending money on removing pinch points and cutting congestion will not only reduce jams but will also go some way to cutting pollution.

"Few things are worse for generating emissions than stationary traffic."

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