Spending Review: Operation Stack and Newhaven Enterprise Zone

George Osborne leaving the Treasury
Image caption George Osborne has announced funding for a replacement for Operation Stack

In recent budgets and spending reviews the South East has felt rather overlooked with lots of announcements about funding for cities in the Northern Powerhouse but precious few for a region traditionally seen as the engine of the economy.

But in today's Spending Review, Kent was one of the big winners. The chancellor George Osborne announced up to £250 million for a replacement for Operation Stack.

The money will be spent on a major new permanent lorry park to take pressure off the M20 when there is disruption to freight traffic at the Channel ports and tunnel terminal.

The announcement is testament to the hard work and continued lobbying by Kent MPs.

It would have been easy for the problems caused by Operation Stack throughout the summer to have become a distant memory, but due to a united group of Kent MPs - led by Folkestone and Hythe's Damian Collins - the county has now secured the funding it has sought for years to hopefully ensure a long-term solution to Stack.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Almost 6,000 lorries can be held on the M20 during Operation Stack

In terms of investment, the chancellor also confirmed he is creating a new Enterprise Zone in Newhaven in East Sussex and is extending North Kent's Innovation Zone. And Mr Osborne confirmed his commitment to building thousands of new homes in Ebbsfleet.

Political observers always watch out for the "rabbit pulled out of the hat" - ie the surprise giveaway. On this occasion, it wasn't so much of a giveaway but the announcement there would be no further cuts to tax credits.

That is a major U-turn and follows fierce criticism of the chancellor's plans which would have seen around 175,000 children in Kent and Sussex affected as their families saw their tax credits cut by around £1,000 a year.

The chancellor said he had been "in listening mode" and had decided to abandon them - a move welcomed by Labour who took the credit for forcing his U-turn.

No police cuts

There have been weeks of lobbying from senior officers and politicians. Both Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes and Hove's MP Peter Kyle raised concerns about cuts to policing in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

Mr Osborne said that police budgets would not be cut over the course of this parliament.

Many had expected cuts of at least 10%, but he said: "Now is not the time for further police cuts. Now is the time to back our police and give them the tools to do the job."

With no policing cuts, no tax credit cuts and extra money for infrastructure and the NHS, the question everyone is asking at Westminster is where this funding is coming from?

As with the Budget, in the Autumn Statement the devil is in the detail.

It will be interesting to see the detail and the reaction to these announcements in the coming days.

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