Budget announcement includes £4.1m for West of England transport ambitions

The Government has announced £4.1m investment for the West of England Combined Authority in 2021-22 to support its transport ambitions.

This new money is only being made available to combined authorities and will help to fund work to reduce car usage and improve air quality by getting more people to walk, cycle and use public transport.

Regional Mayor, Tim Bowles, has welcomed the funding – announced in the Budget on 3 March. He also welcomed Government’s plans to extend the furlough and self-employment income support schemes, and more help for cultural organisations, retail, hospitality and leisure/ tourism businesses.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, also announced initiatives to encourage more businesses to take on apprentices, provide improved training for leaders of SMEs to help their companies grow, and support the UK’s target for net zero carbon.

Many of the Budget announcements support the aims of the West of England Recovery Plan which sets out measures to help businesses adapt to the new economic landscape and improve resilience, as well as support for residents to develop new skills, training and employment opportunities.

Led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and the Local Enterprise Partnership, £9.4m has already been committed to range of programmes supporting the Regional Recovery Plan, taking the Combined Authority’s total investment in businesses and skills to over £100m over the next four years.

Regional Mayor, Tim Bowles, said: “I am really pleased to see this significant investment to fund our transport ambitions, which is only possible because we have a combined authority. As the West of England’s population increases, so too does the strain on our transport network. We want our region to be less reliant on cars with better air quality and more people walking, cycling and using public transport.

“There have been a lot of excellent schemes announced by the Chancellor at the Budget which will help support jobs and secure our region’s economy, particularly the initiatives to keep taxes low for struggling businesses and families. Schemes like Help to Grow will also link with my own recovery plans and make sure that the West of England is able to build back strongly. I am pleased to see that our vital hospitality and construction sectors will be receiving specific support as this is something that I have been calling for and the need for it has been reinforced by my Regional Recovery Taskforce.

“I know I am not alone in being bitterly disappointed that our bid for the Great Western Freeport was not selected, and I still believe the strength of our region and economy could have made us an exemplar of how modern freeports could be a success. We had widespread support across the region for the bid which the Government have told us met their criteria, so I look forward to a prompt and detailed explanation from ministers about why they did not take our bid forward. Nevertheless, thanks to our regional recovery plan, we are bringing forward our own schemes and plans to secure our recovery, help businesses create decent, well- paid jobs and renew our economy by supporting our region’s strengths.”

Key announcements in the Budget include:

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended until the end of September.
  • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has been extended. The fourth grant will cover February to April, worth 80% of average trading profits up to £7,500. A fifth grant will be available from July.
  • £3,000 for each new apprentice hired between 1 April and 30 September 2021. An additional £126 million for traineeships in England.
  • £300m to extend the Culture Recovery Fund, continuing to support key national and local cultural organisations in England and protecting jobs.
  • Eligible retail, hospitality and leisure businesses pay no business rates for 3 months, with up to 66% relief for the rest of the year worth over £6 billion in 2021-22.
  • Extending the temporary reduced VAT rate for hospitality and tourism.
  • The new UK Infrastructure Bank will boost investment to accelerate progress to Net Zero, and level up the UK.
  • UK to launch world’s first sovereign green savings bond for retail investors, allowing savers to help drive the country’s transition to net zero by 2050.
  • Help to Grow: Management will give the leaders of 30,000 SMEs access to world-class training on everything from financial management to marketing. Read more:
  • Help to Grow: Digital will give small businesses free online technology advice and 50% discounts on new productivity enhancing software.
  • New plans to help attract top level talent from all around the world.

Press release by WECA.