Autumn Statement: Could East Anglia gain from £23bn productivity fund?

Manufacturing staff working on an assembly line in Felixstowe.

Manufacturing staff working on an assembly line in Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

Productivity is the key driver behind the chancellor's economic promises – prompting business leaders across East Anglia to start preparing their case for a share of the available cash.

Mr Hammond said the UK was suffering a 'shocking' productivity gap, lagging behind countries including Germany, where a worker takes four days to produce what a British worker makes in five.

The Treasury said if productivity was raised by 1% a year, within a decade it would add £240bn to the UK economy – £9,000 for every household.

Among the measures announced by Mr Hammond was a £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund to be spent on innovation, research, housing, roads and digital infrastructure projects over the next five years.

There was also £1bn to 'catalyse private investment' in fibre broadband networks and 5G mobile internet trials, and £400m released into venture capital funds through the British Business Bank, unlocking £1bn of new finance for growing start-up firms. It follows the extra £2bn of research and development funding announced earlier in the week.

Business leaders now await the details of exactly how and where this money will be spent.

Caroline Williams, chief executive of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: 'We welcome much of what is in the chancellor's statement. However, at this point we have no idea how successful Norfolk will be in ensuring significant funding to be spent in our county.

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'Norfolk businesses will benefit from improved infrastructure, so the announced increased resources for local and regional transport infrastructure, broadband, housing and innovation is welcome and will hopefully boost local business confidence. The chancellor's strong focus on the growth requirements of cities and regions will mean that the business voice within a rural county like Norfolk will need to be heard loud and clear.'

Mr Hammond's speech also confirmed £542m would be allocated to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the East of England and the Midlands – although the detailed breakdown of these allocations has yet to be published.

New Anglia LEP's managing director, Chris Starkie, said the £23bn productivity fund included a 'science and innovation audit' for the east which could identify targets for funding.

He said: 'This audit will better inform central government of our region's strength for potential future funding streams, and assist with foreign direct investment. It's a huge vote of confidence in the world class work in life sciences, agri-tech, advanced engineering and manufacturing, and information and communications technology already taking place here.'

Cliff Jordan, leader of Norfolk County Council, added: 'We'll be watching closely as the details come out in the next few days. However, we will certainly be making our case for any extra funding that's available for Norfolk's infrastructure.'

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