Wales politics

Autumn Statement: Call to boost investment in Wales

M4 relief road artist impression Image copyright Welsh Government
Image caption The Welsh Government has been granted permission to borrow for projects like the M4 relief road

Ministers should borrow billions of pounds at cheap rates to boost roads and infrastructure in Wales, a civil engineers' leader has said.

The Welsh Government has been told to expect "tens of millions of pounds" extra in Wednesday's Autumn Statement.

Ed Evans, director of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association Wales, said the money was "good news" but the sum was "relatively small".

"The challenges we face need billions of pounds to address", he said.

Chancellor Phillip Hammond will outline the UK government's spending plans to MPs on Wednesday.

Sources have said he will announce £1.3bn worth of spending on roads in England.

This means the devolved governments in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast will share £250m under the Treasury's Barnett formula for allocating extra money across the UK.

Analysis by David Cornock, BBC Wales Parliamentary correspondent

The chancellor may have changed but, as he prepares to deliver his first Autumn Statement, Phillip Hammond is facing similar lobbying to that George Osborne saw during his six years at the Treasury.

Motorists' organisations, brewers, devolved governments, housing and health experts - all want a bigger slice of the chancellor's cake.

Mr Hammond is determined to do things rather differently from his predecessor. You're unlikely to see him in a hi-vis jacket and hard hat.

But, like Mr Osborne, he has leaked some of the statement in advance, with the Welsh Government getting a population-linked share of extra cash he's earmarked for transport in England.

"Tens of millions" is a lot of money, but it's a drop in the ocean of the overall £15bn the Welsh Government spends every year.

It's also a reminder that despite Mr Hammond scrapping Mr Osborne's plans to balance the books by 2020, money is still tight and the chancellor has limited room for manoeuvre.

Read more from David here

The Welsh Government's capital budget for 2017/18 had been set at just over £1.4bn.

If they wished, ministers could spend the extra money on building schools or hospitals rather than roads.

Mr Evans said: "We welcome any investment in our ailing infrastructure.

"It's good news for those civil engineering businesses and their local communities who depend on being able to resurface roads, repair potholes, improve public safety and so on.

"However, we need to see this relatively small investment in the context of the huge problems facing us," he added.

"The challenges we face need billions of pounds to address them. We want to see governments borrowing money, at a time when it's cheap to borrow, and invest properly in infrastructure so that we can grow our economy.

"We need to build our way to a more prosperous Wales."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Phillip Hammond will deliver his first autumn statement on Wednesday

Mark Bodger, a spokesman in Wales for the Construction Industry Training Board, added: "Targeting increased funding on infrastructure projects is the right thing to do as it delivers a number of major social and economic benefits across Wales.

"However, while this funding is welcome, more funds are needed to help Wales rise to the potential that exists in our construction sector."

In a letter to Mr Hammond ahead of the Autumn Statement, Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said he wanted permission from the UK government to borrow more to invest in capital projects than the £500m limit set by the 2014 Wales Act.

"Now is the time for a new approach - that's why we want the UK government to end its austerity politics and provide a much-needed infrastructure investment stimulus." he said.

"In these uncertain times, the Welsh Government is determined to provide stability and ambition and deliver a prosperous and secure Wales."

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards has dismissed the prospect of extra money for Wales as "crumbs from the Westminster table".

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