Chancellor expected to confirm £5bn investment for faster broadband

A £5 billion investment to roll out faster broadband across the UK by 2025 is expected to be confirmed by the Chancellor in Wednesday’s Budget.

The Conservatives pledged at the election to bring full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business in Britain within five years.

Rishi Sunak is set to use his first Budget this week to confirm the £5 billion investment, which he hopes will benefit more than five million homes and businesses.

Gigabit broadband, which is 40 times faster than standard superfast broadband, will be rolled out to the hardest to reach 20% of the country, the Treasury said.

Mr Sunak is also expected to announce a £1 billion deal with the mobile phone industry to boost 4G coverage across the country – with the biggest improvements likely to be in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The deal will provide extra coverage to 280,000 premises and 16,000km of roads, the Treasury anticipates.

Mr Sunak said: “We are committed to levelling up across every region and nation in the UK and that is why we are making the largest ever public investment into broadband.

“This investment delivers on our promises to the British people, boosting growth and prosperity across the country.”

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Sunak refused to confirm whether he will stick to the fiscal rules set out in the Conservative manifesto.

The Budget will be delivered amid an escalating coronavirus crisis (Tim Goode/PA)
The Budget will be delivered amid an escalating coronavirus crisis (Tim Goode/PA)

He said he believes “very much” in the responsible management of public finances, but declined to comment on whether the Government will abide by its election pledges.

The Conservative manifesto for the election stated the party would not borrow to fund day-to-day spending and would ensure debt is lower in five years’ time.

Mr Sunak, who has been in office for less than a month, will outline his financial plan amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis.

He insisted the Government is ready to deliver “whatever action is required” to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak, and has pledged to give the NHS the resources it needs to respond.

Mr Sunak also vowed to give smaller businesses “short-term” support to weather the outbreak, saying he wants to provide a “bridge through a temporary period of difficulty so that they can emerge on the other side”.