Edinburgh City Deal still on track, says Chancellor

EDINBURGH'S City Deal remains on track after new Chancellor Philip Hammond recommitted to the investment package in his Autumn Statement.

Thursday, 24th November 2016, 8:57 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:31 am
Chancellor Philip Hammond delivers his Autumn Statement in the House of Commons. Picture; PA

The Capital submitted a £1 billion bid to ministers in September last year in partnership with the three Lothian authorities, Fife and the Scottish Borders and hopes it will draw in up to £3.2bn of private investment to help boost the economy.

In his speech in the Commons yesterday, Mr Hammond said: “Devolution remains at the heart of this government’s approach to supporting local growth, and we recommit today to our City Deals with Swansea, Edinburgh, North Wales and Tay Cities – and I can announce we’re beginning negotiations on a City Deal for Stirling, so that every city in Scotland will be on course to have a City Deal.”

The Chancellor had no big giveaways in his first Autumn Statement, delivered in the shadow of the Brexit vote. He told MPs the Office for Budget Responsibility was forecasting higher borrowing, slower growth and an increase in debt.

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He confirmed the government was no longer aiming for a budget surplus in 2019-20 but said he wanted to return public finances to balance “as soon as practicable”.

Mr Hammond announced a freeze on fuel duty for the seventh year running, confirmed a 30p rise in the minimum wage to £7.50 per hour, promised the threshold for paying income tax would rise to £12,500 by the end of the parliament, said the government would increase the higher rate income tax threshold to £50,000 by the same time and would still cut corporation tax to just 17p.

He said Scotland would get an extra £800 million over the five years ts a result of increased infrastructure spending announced for England.

City council leader Andrew Burns hailed Mr Hammond’s mention of the City Deal as “good news”.

He said: “I welcome the announcement by the Chancellor that the UK government remains committed to a City Region Deal for Edinburgh and South-East Scotland.

“Discussions with the UK and Scottish governments continue on the deal, which contains proposals to accelerate growth in Edinburgh and the wider regional economy that will benefit Scottish and UK economies while tackling inequalities and deprivation.”

Green economy spokesman Gavin Corbett said: “The city region deal is a major opportunity to put Edinburgh and the wider city region at the forefront of a new kind of economy – which dramatically reduces its impact on the planet by investing in new energy systems, improving public transport and active travel and ensuring that new jobs are spread throughout the region and for people who need them most.

“The devil is in the detail though. The investment package and devolution of powers under a city region deal can either lead the way to that new economy or it can lock the city into 1960s style planning. There is still a lot of that detail to come.”