Government must use the upcoming budget to move the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) from a rhetorical commitment to a programme of work that can deliver wide benefits in both the short and long term, ICE has said in its budget submission.
While the NIP sets out a clear vision for the shape and performance of UK infrastructure, the Chancellor should not ‘lose sight of the scale of the challenge’ and implement measures to speed up the plan’s delivery.
ICE has called on the Government to:
- Produce a delivery timeline for the NIP “top 40” priority project list - clearly identifying its own actions and prioritising those which are critical to timely delivery
- Commit to rapid completion of Electricity Market Reform and publication of the outstanding National Policy Statement on Transport Networks – both are holding back major investment or potential projects and causing uncertainty
- Prioritise action on finance and funding – the NIP envisages a rise in infrastructure investment to £50bn per annum over the next decade and the UK is a long way off achieving this
- Set out more detail on what is required from each infrastructure network in order to meet government’s own goals, including clarity on acceptable trade-offs (e.g. achieving economic growth or reducing emissions) – this would enable more effective prioritisation of investment
- Support industry efforts to unblock smaller, local projects - so they can move from planning to delivery and contribute to shorter term economic growth
- Prioritise the UK’s flood defences for any additional public capital expenditure – for every £1 spent on flood risk management, £8 is saved in avoiding future damage
‘Rhetoric to reality’
ICE Director General, Nick Baveystock, said: ‘Some significant steps have been made to translate the NIP from a brochure into an action plan that allows infrastructure to deliver as the critical enabler to economic growth - from the creation of a NIP strategic engagement forum, right through to the launch of the Guarantees Scheme. But further steps are needed if we are to shift the infrastructure agenda from rhetoric to reality.’
For the plan to be a success in the long term, a shortfall in project financing needs to be addressed and investment prioritised more effectively. The autumn statement reported that annual investment in infrastructure had risen to £33bn from 2010-2012, yet the NIP envisages an increase to £50bn per year over the coming decade.
‘Real opportunity’ for infrastructure
On stimulating growth in the shorter term, he added: ‘There are a vast number of smaller scale infrastructure projects that are struggling to progress from planning to delivery. These projects, if unblocked, could rapidly translate into jobs and growth. The industry has a role to play in getting these projects off the ground, but it is vital that Government also plays its part.
‘This Budget presents a real opportunity for Government to drive the infrastructure agenda forward and make the NIP work - not only to kick start growth in the shorter term but for the longer term - enabling the UK to compete in a modern world, creating jobs and growth and achieving a stable environment to grow our engineering skills and capacity. ICE stands ready to assist where necessary.’
Read our full budget submission ahead of the Chancellor’s statement on 20 March