Chancellor George Osborne has announced in the Budget plants to develop smart city infrastructure and support for a sharing economy.
He announced that the Government will support a competition to fund a Smart Cities demonstrator as part of its Internet of Things programme to trial and showcase new technologies.
In a 2013 report commissioned by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, five key vertical sectors were identified as containing opportunities for developing intelligent technology in urban areas. These were waste, water, energy, transport and assisted living.
The Chancellor said that the Government will invest £140 million into research across the UK into the infrastructure and cities of the future.
He added: “We’ll invest in what is known as the Internet of Things. This is the next stage of the information revolution, connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances.”
In the Budget documents, the Government also revealed that it will work with local government on using digital technology to provide more “customer-focussed, digitally-enabled and efficient local services”.
On the sharing economy, the Chancellor said that he wants Britain to be the global centre for the sharing economy to enable businesses and individuals to make the most of their assets, resources, time and skills.
While most of the support would be offered to accommodation and transport, the Budget documents revealed that the Government will encourage local authorities to use their business rates discretionary relief powers to support the sharing economy, including shared workspaces and makerspaces.
On other measures, the Chancellor announced that “we back our heavy industry too, like steel and paper mills”.
As a result, he announced that the Government will bring forward the feed-in tariffs (FITs) compensation scheme for the indirect costs of small-scale FITs and the renewables obligation to 2015-16 instead of the originally planned 2016-17 announced in Budget 2014. This is expected to save £25 million in 2015-16 to energy intensive industries.
On landfill tax, the Budget confirmed that it will increase by RPI rounded to the nearest 5p from April 2016 for both the lower and standard rate. It also confirmed that £4.2 million will be given to the Environment Agency to tackle waste crime from savings made in the Landfill Communities Fund.
Of course, with the General Election occurring on 7 May, the new Government may decide to have a new Budget shortly after the election and none of these measures will be implemented.