A big Budget for a Country with big ambitions – but, where’s the tech?
It has not escaped the attention of people, that yesterday’s budget may have done lots for business but is very soft on tech commitments.
Fingers are already pointing at the Tories' election manifesto, which pledged to roll out superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the population by 2017. But, there was no mention of it in the budget. Arguably the only ‘tech’ element was the arrival of the oyster card to the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.
Already termed the ‘Noyster Card’, this smart card will enable northerners to travel via bus, tram, metro and rail services in the north of England. It has been earmarked as one of the chancellor’s top priorities. However experts (and the press) are already labelling it an ‘out-of-date gimmick’ and demand for increased investment in the ‘crumbling’ network first which is being painted as ‘creaking’ and ‘overcrowded’.
To back up this war cry, many people are pointing at TransPennine route. Electrification work on this crucial artery has put on ice, prompting Labour to claim that the ‘northern powerhouse’ has turned into a ‘northern powercut’. The plan has already been widely criticised for not going far enough. The Noyster Card is being hailed as ‘a nice gesture in principal’, but critics believe it will do absolutely nothing to alleviate the lack of capacity and very little to improve the connectivity on the region’s overloaded rail network.
In fact, some people see this step as old fashioned and are crying out for a move straight to a ‘contactless North’. With investment in rail schemes connected with the Northern Powerhouse currently at less than 25 per cent of the £13bn that the Department for Communities and Local Government has claimed, it is no wonder that not everyone is convinced about this move.
However this is not a universal viewpoint.
A majority of people see the creation of the ‘Northern Powerhouse as a positive step, where economic growth will be fuelled by devolution and improved transport links.
Greater Manchester will now be able to elect a mayor, who will have greater powers to direct the region's growth. The Chancellor said he is aiming to further devolve powers to Sheffield, Liverpool, Leeds, West Yorkshire and partner authorities.
With the prospect of better transport links, oyster-style ticketing and devolution of powers throughout the North and the country, many people believe that this will encourage nationwide tech and enterprise hubs, increase employment and ultimately benefit our economy. Plus the A1(M), north of Leeds, may achieve it’s dream of becoming the M1!
Now all eyes turn to the sunrise of Friday 10 July. Will the Chancellors ‘Productivity Plan’ provide the spark that tech firms are waiting for?