Nick Clegg fast-tracks public projects to avert double dip

The scheme will include work on Crossrail, improvements to the National Grid, and the rollout of broadband

Nigel Morris
Wednesday 14 September 2011 00:00
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Nick Clegg will today announce plans to press ahead with 40 major building projects in an effort to create thousands of jobs and breathe new life into Britain's anaemic economy.

The Deputy Prime Minister's move comes amid increasing Cabinet worries that the sluggish recovery from the downturn could continue for years – or even turn into a double-dip recession.

Critics will seize on the initiative, which carries echoes of President Barack Obama's plan to modernise the infrastructure of the United States, as evidence that ministers are planning an economic "plan A+" in the face of gloomy growth figures.

The Government counters that it is giving fresh impetus to previously announced schemes that are as important for Britain's economic health as cutting the deficit.

Mr Clegg will today say projects to upgrade the rail network, tackle motorway bottlenecks and roll out high-speed broadband are to be given "special priority status".

He will say: "Each will now be rigorously examined by Ministers to make sure there are no delays, no blockages, and we get these projects delivered."

They will include work on the Crossrail scheme, connecting east and west London, and the electrification of the Great Western Main Line to Cardiff and Bristol, as well as targeting "pinch points" on the M1, M25 and other major roads.

Improvements to the National Grid and the rollout of broadband services across the country are also among the schemes.

Mr Clegg, speaking in London, will promise a "gear shift in government" which will "unblock the system and get the money out the door".

He will argue that Britain cannot afford a repeat of previous infrastructure projects, such as the extension of the Jubilee line in London and improvements to the West Coast mainline, that were completed late and came in over-budget.

"Whitehall has a huge role to play in breaking this cycle. And it must – the country need jobs, and time is no longer on our side. So Whitehall will put its foot on the accelerator. We will deliver on our commitments." He will say the money is in place to get the projects off the ground – and deliver a stern warning to Cabinet ministers and senior civil servants to guarantee that the funds are released.

He will say that Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will "be shaking the Whitehall tree" to ensure "no-one is stockpiling capital that can be put to good use today".

Leading a Cabinet discussion yesterday over the health of the economy, Chancellor George Osborne gave a downbeat warning of the impact on Britain of problems overseas, including the slow growth in the United States and Germany and the difficulties besetting the eurozone.

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