UK’s Johnson seeks extra boost in infrastructure spending

London: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to announce a boost in infrastructure spending focused on northern England, seeking to make good on campaign pledges made before he led his Conservatives to a landslide victory in December’s general election. The programme will include 40 million pounds ($52 million) for 5G wireless networks in rural areas and investment in mass transit, according to a government official on Sunday. Johnson also plans to decide within days on the future of the HS2 project, a contentious, high-speed rail link beset by cost overruns and political wrangling. Also, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will require West Midlands Trains to deliver a 20 million-pound round of improvements for passengers to reduce delays and recruit more personnel. Together, the plans represent part of a programme to try to help northern England catch up with London and the southeast — traditionally the economic driver of the UK. Johnson’s government, which finally delivered Britain’s departure from the European Union last month on the strength of his majority in Parliament, showed it’s ready to step in to appeal to pro-Brexit districts of northern England when it announced in January that it will take the troubled Northern Rail franchise back into state ownership. With post-election changes in Johnson’s cabinet believed to be imminent, Shapps is expected to keep his post as the prime minister seeks to maintain a focus on infrastructure, according to the official. Government departments are jockeying for attention ahead of next month’s budget. According to the Telegraph, some Treasury officials are evaluating how to raise taxes from wealthy homeowners, who are more likely to live in the south. The Financial Times reported Saturday that Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid is considering a shake-up of pension tax breaks, which tend to benefit high-earners.

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