£1.7bn to boost transport links between city centres and struggling suburbs

Ministers have announced a £1.7 billion plan to improve transport links between prosperous city centres and struggling suburbs.

The Transforming Cities fund is designed to address weaknesses in city transport systems to spread prosperity by improving connectivity, reducing congestion and introducing new mobility services and technology.

Theresa May, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark will on Monday visit the West Midlands, where the combined authority has been allocated £250 million from the fund to spend on transport in the region.

Prime Minister Theresa May walks with Business Secretary Greg Clark and Chancellor Philip Hammond
Prime Minister Theresa May walks with Business Secretary Greg Clark and Chancellor Philip Hammond

Mr Hammond is expected to announce further details on how the fund will be allocated in the Budget on Wednesday.

The ministers will also commit to working with industry to boost spending on research and development to 2.4% of GDP - the average level among developed countries in the OECD - by 2027.

Both announcements form part of the Government's industrial strategy, with announcements in the Budget expected to pave the way for the plan to improve productivity and create higher-skilled jobs.

Mr Hammond's set piece on Wednesday will be followed by the launch of the Industrial Strategy White Paper next Monday.

Writing in the Times, the Prime Minister said: "One of my first actions as Prime Minister was to begin the development of a modern industrial strategy that will help businesses to create high-quality, well-paid jobs right across the country.

"This is a new long-term approach to shaping a stronger and fairer economy for decades to come.

"It helps young people to develop the skills they need to take up the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future.

"Our industrial strategy will propel Britain to global leadership of the industries of the future, seizing the big opportunities of our time - from artificial intelligence and big data to clean energy and self-driving vehicles."

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "Investment in transport is crucial to a strong and resilient economy. The Transforming Cities fund will drive productivity and growth in cities where this is most needed, connecting communities and making it quicker and easier for people to get around.

"We have already seen the impact of better integrated transport links for both passengers and the local economy in cities like Nottingham and Manchester.

"This new fund will enable more English cities to reap these benefits, helping to deliver the opportunities and ambition of the industrial strategy across the country, as well as driving forward the 'northern powerhouse' and 'Midlands engine'."

Mr Clark said the commitment to increasing investment in research and development was a "landmark moment" for the UK.

The Government will make a start by investing £2.3 billion extra in 2021/22, raising total investment in research and development to £12.5 billion in that year.

The commitment to get to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 could boost public and private investment by £80 billion over the next decade, Downing Street said.

Mr Clark said: "The UK is a world leader in science and innovation.

"By delivering this significant increase as part of our industrial strategy, we are building on our strengths and working with business to ensure that UK scientists and researchers continue to push the boundaries of innovation.

"We want the UK to attract, and create, the best and brightest talents, from Nobel Prize winners to ambitious graduate students, and this game-changing investment will ensure we are the home of the industries of the future and high-quality, good jobs."

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said the proposals were "too little, too late".

"After years of languishing below it, Britain should be aiming to be above the OECD average on R&D spending," she said.

"And to radically transform the transport infrastructure of the UK, we need more than the Conservatives are offering."