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  • Writer's pictureEastern Powerhouse

EPH Budget Response - March 2024

If you are looking for announcements in a budget by a Chancellor that have a big positive effect on the East of England then you are really looking in the wrong place. But if you look really hard there might be the odd morsel of hope. Hope that the east is part of the chancellors’ plan for growth and hope that we are finally being recognised as a key driver for the economy. And the truth is that in this budget, there is little to go on but there are some positives, if they are aligned to the usual suspects.

Cambridge gets the lion's share, of course, but this time it may be that there are opportunities for other parts of the region that may come from the investment for the city. The government has finally realised that Cambridge is the pre eminent science cluster in Europe and is now backing the city with appropriate investment. Certainly £45m for life sciences will benefit Cambridge which has around half of the 1200 businesses dedicated to the industry in the east but we will be lobbying for investment across the region, using the work we have done for a Life Science Policy for the east as a catalyst and as evidence.

The Eastern Powerhouse are pleased to hear the chancellor admit that we have failed to harness the opportunities for manufacturing from the Cambridge phenomenon. This is a failure not of Cambridge but of government policy and to have a chancellor who can see the potential Cambridge has to offer and in Astra Zeneca, a Cambridge based business willing to invest in manufacturing schemes is pleasing. A request to Whitehall, please consider Peterborough, Ipswich, and the towns of the fens and Essex when you plan manufacturing sites. They are close to Cambridge and perfectly placed to deliver.

Finally, the chancellor teased us with a promise of £10m for local transport solutions in Cambridge. Quite what this is, he decided not to say but lets hope it doesn’t get lost with the £500m City Deal funding from yesteryear which has thus far proved so impotent when easing congestion in the city.

Elsewhere there was little for the east, although the government will point to funding for NHS Innovation and Cleantech and the headline grabbing tax cuts as policies to drive the economy. There was nothing for infrastructure and worryingly, no confirmation of funding for Ely North and Haughley rail junctions. Sadly, I have come to expect that when it comes to funding the regions, government either doesn’t regard the east as a region or doesn’t deem it worthy of a mention, apart from Cambridge.


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