(Bloomberg) — A major review of U.K. infrastructure spending will no longer be published alongside the Budget on March 11, casting doubt over whether billions of additional pounds pledged by Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the coming fiscal year will now be delivered.
The delay, confirmed on Friday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office, comes as pressure mounts on Johnson’s government to announce emergency measures in the Budget to shield the economy from the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.
Johnson had planned to publish the National Infrastructure Strategy at the same time as the Budget. It was meant to highlight his plans to spend an additional 20 billion pounds ($26 billion) a year on capital projects ranging from cycle lanes and flood defenses to new rail lines and filling in potholes.
The document will now be published “in the coming months, though the budget will include “considerable investment plans,” Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, told reporters in London.
Infrastructure spending is central to Johnson’s plan to level up” regions where living standards are lagging behind London and southeast England. Voters in the north and midlands handed Johnson a landslide election victory in December, many of them voting for his Conservative Party for the first time.
The delay to the strategy document was first reported by the BBC, which said the extra time will allow Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to refocus the strategy to reflect potentially larger resources available, and to incorporate the challenge of achieving “net zero” carbon emissions over a 30-year timescale.
The Budget is still expected to include the overall envelope for capital spending. The infrastructure strategy and the Comprehensive Spending Review, which covers departmental budgets, will determine the detailed policy for overall government expenditure.
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