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Ed Balls: Chancellor making 'more empty promises' on infrastructure

George Osborne was accused of making “more empty promises” as he committed to £300bn of capital spending from 2015/16 today.

The chancellor said there would be £50bn of capital spending per annum from 2015/16 to the end of the decade, but the detail of this is still to be set out.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said “we need bold action now, not just more empty promises for the future”.

“There’s no point boasting about infrastructure investment in five or seven years’ time – we need action now,” Mr Balls said.

He slammed the progress of the National Infrastructure Plan, saying just seven projects had been completed; that 80 per cent have not started; and that the government had delivered only one school.

He added that infrastructure investment is down 50 per cent in the first quarter of 2013.

Mr Balls also questioned why Mr Osborne is committing to funding new free schools “in areas with enough school places”.

The annual transport capital budget will rise to £9.5bn – the largest rise of any part of government, Mr Osborne said.

The chancellor also said “we’re announcing the largest programme of investment in our roads for half a century”. But there was no further detail today.

Asked during the question period by the opposition why people should have confidence that Mr Osborne will deliver following a “record of complete failure on infrastructure spending”, the chancellor said the road schemes they have committed to have planning permission or are getting their planning permission, with the same for schools and other infrastructure.

Mr Osborne said when they came to power there was a “complete absence” of a plan for infrastructure, and that Labour had opposed planning reforms needed to deliver schemes.

He also said while transport will be largely publicly funded, it will offer the opportunity to leverage private investment.

Mr Osborne said that an overhaul to infrastructure delivery willl be set out this week, and indicated further planning reform.

“We are reforming planning and are also going to be setting out changes this week to infrastructure delivery in Whitehall,” he said.

“We’re going to do our best to put it right.”

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