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Rishi Sunak plans spending spree in first UK Budget

UK finance minister Rishi Sunak is preparing for his first Budget in just over two weeks’ time with a major spending spree on infrastructure projects, including a historic new hub for his Treasury department in the north of England.

The 39-year-old son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, who was appointed the UK’s first Indian-origin Chancellor of the Exchequer in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson”s Cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, will table the Budget in Parliament on March 11.

According to ‘The Sunday Times’, this would involve a major giveaway for Johnson”s election pledge to invest in the north of England, credited with handing the Conservative Party its strong majority in the December 2019 General Election.

Sunak, himself an MP from the northern region of Richmond in North Yorkshire, plans to move a significant number of the UK Treasury department’s 1,500 London-based posts to a so-called “economic decision-making campus” in the north.

It will reportedly involve billions of pounds of public money directed towards infrastructure projects and other needs of businesses in the region.

The Tees Valley, by the River Tees in north-east England, is among the favourites to host the new hub after Sunak took officials to Teesside last month for a Treasury board meeting.

A team to lead the project is being set up, with an expected rollout of the hub to begin in 2021.

“The Chancellor wants to shift the gravity of economic decision away from the capital to our regions and nations — and setting up a new economic decision-making campus in the north of England will do that,” the newspaper quoted a Treasury source as saying.

“It will be key in helping spread opportunity and prosperity to all,” the source said.

Sunak had set up the South Tees Development Corporation committing 71 million pounds to redevelop a site near Redcar in region during his time as Chief Secretary to the Treasury under his predecessor as Chancellor Sajid Javid.

Javid had stepped down in a shock move during the Cabinet reshuffle amid reports of his unwillingness for a tight alignment between the Treasury and the PM”s office at No. 10 Downing Street.

His successor is now expected to find nearly 70-billion pounds to be spent on infrastructure projects pledged by the Boris Johnson led government.

Sunak is also said to be considering a change to the fiscal rule which says the UK’s Budget must be balanced over three years, to a five-year cycle, enabling him to “front load” more spending this year and next.

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