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A14 funding plea to Chancellor ahead of Budget

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Suffolk leaders have made a plea to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for better funding ahead of the upcoming Budget, as data reveals a £700 million economic hit per year from A14 delays.

The Suffolk Public Sector Leaders group of all council leaders, chief executives and the police and crime commissioner have penned a joint letter to Rishi Sunak MP, seeking cash for vital projects that can help ‘rebalance the economy’.

Among those are calls for rail infrastructure improvements at Haughley Junction, Ely and between Newmarket and Cambridge; vital A14 upgrades at key junctions and developing 5G connections.

Budget 2020 (30782593)
Budget 2020 (30782593)

The letter said ‘Suffolk is uniquely placed to support the UK outside of the EU as it seeks to rebalance the economy’ and said the county had a ‘record of delivering public service transformation’.

It added that “Suffolk has a vital role to play in shaping the UK’s future”.

New Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to unveil his first Budget on Wednesday, March 11, having succeeded Sajid Javid during the recent cabinet reshuffle.

The government has responded to Suffolk’s pleas, but it is not yet clear if any of the measures will make it into the Budget.

Steve Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in his reply said his officials were examining the ideas and suggestions.

He added: “While it would not be appropriate to respond in detail to the points you make at this stage, I can assure you that your suggestions have been noted.”

The letter also unveiled the huge economic potential the A14 upgrades alone could bring, reporting that improvements would bring an extra £825million to the economy as well as save £700m a year in avoidable delays.

A transport summit was held last month in Ipswich where political and business leaders raised fears that the government’s focus on transport projects in the north of England would mean Suffolk would be shunned.

The RIS2 proposals (Road Infrastructure Strategy) for 2020-25 which the A14 upgrades were expected to be a part of has also been cast into doubt as details are yet to be published despite a proposed April 1 launch date.

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks, who chairs the county’s Public Sector Leaders summit, said: “We need to keep making sure that Suffolk is on the map.

“Felixstowe plays a very important part – it’s the artery that feeds the Midlands and the north in many aspects, so we need to keep pushing Suffolk’s points, and make sure government is aware of Suffolk.

“It’s always taken seriously, but we are in competition with lots of other parts of the country, so we need to keep pushing the message.”