By Claire West
Government must use the upcoming Budget to drive forward the implementation of it’s plans to secure targeted investment in essential infrastructure — only then can infrastructure deliver as a key strand in the Government’s strategy for growth, says the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in its Budget Submission.
In the UK’s first National Infrastructure Plan (NIP), launched last year, Government envisaged infrastructure as key driver of competitiveness and economic growth, by increasing private and public sector productivity, reducing business costs, diversifying the means of production and creating jobs.
ICE says there have been significant and positive steps towards achieving this, including the proposal for a Green Investment Bank, the creation of Infrastructure UK (IUK) within HM Treasury, the publication of the first NIP and the formation of a group of senior, cross departmental ministers to ensure a smooth pipeline of projects and indentify potential investment blockages. It also welcomes the IUK Infrastructure Costs Review into the costs of construction in the UK, which identified weakness in the UK’s approach in several areas that if addressed could lower delivery costs and unlock benefits of £2-3 billion per annum.
However the leading engineering body urges Government to use the Budget to translate its policies into detailed actions that pave the way for infrastructure to become the economic driver it promises.
This includes ensuring that there is unambiguous political accountability for the delivery of both the Government’s promised actions and the actual development of infrastructure on the ground. More detail is also required on the structure of the Green Investment Bank, which ICE believes should not be downgraded to a fund. It also calls for the delivery with industry of a robust plan for implementing the actions set out in the Infrastructure Costs Review and the publication of a 2nd, more detailed edition of the NIP setting out long-term investment needs and priorities for UK infrastructure, along with the actions to deliver them.
ICE Director General, Tom Foulkes, said: “Infrastructure forms a central plank of any strategy for growth in both the short and long term. Every £1 of investment in construction activity generates £2.84 of economic activity and 92p of every pound spent on construction is retained in the UK helping to boost the fragile recovery. New and upgraded infrastructure will also be central to longer term goals of improving the security of the UK’s energy supply and the transition to a low carbon economy.
“But Government must get started on the delivery and implementation of its plans in order to make real progress and create a political, regulatory and commercial environment that is conducive to high levels of private investment in infrastructure.
“This will mark the end of the “stop/start” approach to infrastructure development — an approach which in previous decades has led to under investment in economic infrastructure, undermined skills development and innovation in the infrastructure supply chain, fuelled periodic bouts of construction inflation and seriously undermined investor confidence.”