Spending review 'undermines UK green vision'

shareSharenocloseShare pagelinkCopy linkAbout sharingimage copyrightPA MediaThe UK chancellor’s Spending Review has been accused of undermining the prime minister’s “green” vision by pushing ahead with a £27bn roads programme.After several speeches in which Boris Johnson pledged to rescue the economy by “building back greener”, Rishi Sunak’s speech on Wednesday barely mentioned the climate.He said he was pursuing the nation’s priorities.Mr Sunak put detailed numbers on the PM’s recent green technology plan.But he offered no increase on the £12bn Mr Johnson says the government has mobilised to tackle climate change – even though the sum is much less than what’s been agreed in France, Germany and others.Environment groups are most angry at the roads programme. The chancellor said it would ease congestion, improve commute times and “keep travel arteries open.” It was essential, he said, because people are shunning public transport during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now will the Treasury go green?Ban on new petrol and diesel cars in UK from 2030Campaigners said it would attract more traffic and increase emissions, when the PM says they should be falling.Friends of the Earth’s Mike Childs said: “He (Mr Sunak) has completely undermined the Prime Minister.”With billions of pounds earmarked for a climate-wrecking road-building programme and inadequate funding for home insulation, eco-heating, buses and cycling this strategy falls woefully short.”We need to head off the climate emergency. Ministers must ensure every major development is in line with meeting the net zero target.”The union boss Manuel Cortes general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) accused the government of “abandoning all pretence of ambition over decarbonisation”. He said: “The Spending Review was a moment to unleash the green economic revolution, but Sunak failed. “Instead of grasping the nettle and resetting our country on an economic course based around green jobs and investment – we had barely a mention on the climate crisis we face.” Fatima Ibrahim Green, from the campaign group greennewdealuk, said: “Only last week did this government set out its 10-point plan to ‘build back greener’.“Today it announced road infrastructure. The irony would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. It’s saddling future generations with locked-in carbon emissions, risking our net-zero target and our international commitments.”Now will the Treasury go green?But Ian Taylor, from the campaign group, Alliance of British Drivers, told BBC News: “We’re glad they appear to have stuck to the roads programme. We don’t object to spending on the railways and underground as well as roads, but the road network is a necessary part of infrastructure on which the economy depends.”There was, though, a hint that the government’s appetite for further road-building may be on the wane. Road builders have been planning to spend £90bn in the long-term on new tarmac – but the document has not embraced that figure.Several environmentalists, meanwhile, applauded the chancellor for setting up an infrastructure bank to fund new projects such as offshore wind farms. Kate Levick, from the think tank E3G, said: “It can play a transformative role in leveraging private sector investment into the green industrial revolution. It must also be given full banking powers, an independent remit, and the capital needed to drive our green recovery.” Her colleague, Pedro Guertler, was less complimentary about the absence of any new commitment to tackle what many see as the UK’s biggest carbon challenge – refurbishing our buildings.He said: “The chancellor has confirmed vital extra funding for greening buildings next year but missed the opportunity to set out multi-year funding which is so desperately needed to give the supply chain the confidence to invest.”Follow Roger on Twitter.

Spending review: Families face 'agonising uncertainty' over benefits decision

shareSharenocloseShare pagelinkCopy linkAbout sharingFamilies on Universal Credit face “agonising uncertainty” after Rishi Sunak did not confirm what would happen to their benefits next year, campaigners say.Universal Credit claimants were given a £20-a-week boost in response to the coronavirus pandemic in April.The temporary rise is due to come to an end in April 2021.The chancellor did not say whether the increase would be extended or cut, in his spending review.Speaking after delivering his statement to MPs, he said the increased payment would continue until next spring.He added: “Let’s get through winter see where we are with the virus and what the economy looks and decide then how best to support people. “Everyone can rest assured we remain committed to making sure we look after the most vulnerable in our society.”Economic emergency has only just begun, says SunakUnemployed predicted to rise to 2.6 millionLow-paid public sector workers to get £250 pay riseFootballer and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford tweeted: “Is the Universal Credit uplift going to be taken away in April?”‘Think again’Paul Noblet, from youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, said: “The government’s failure to commit to retaining the current uplift in Universal Credit is hugely disappointing and will weigh heavily on the minds of millions of people for whom the £20 a week increase has made a huge difference.”There is still time for the government to reflect on this issue between now and the end of March and we urge them to think again.”image copyrightPA MediaThe chancellor set out his spending priorities for the year ahead earlier, warning that unemployment is set to peak at 2,6 million next year, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.But he faced criticism from opposition MPs for not mentioning what would happen to benefit rates, in his speech.Labour MP Stephen Timms, chairman of the work and pensions committee, said: “Millions of people on Universal Credit are now facing the Christmas period in agonising uncertainty, not knowing whether the government will cut their income by £20 a week next April.”Meanwhile, those on older benefits, who have already missed out on the rise because the DWP’s systems are too old-fashioned, will receive an increase of just 0.5% next year.”The government must think again.”

Spending Review: SNP’s Alison Thewliss on Sunak spending plans

The chancellor was criticised by SNP Treasury spokeswoman Alison Thewliss for planning to cut foreign aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of its spending, branding it “just cruel”.And she said Rishi Sunak should apologise to three million people who are “excluded” from coronavirus support schemes.She called on Mr Sunak to reopen job centres that had been closed.Live Page: PMQs and Spending Review