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Government construction strategy needs collaboration to deliver world-class infrastructure

A few days ago I visited one of the new stations being built as part of Crossrail – soon to be the Elizabeth line.

It’s a fantastic feat of engineering, a great testament to British skill, expertise and management.

More than that, it’s part of an infrastructure programme that is transforming our entire nation – strengthening our economic security, making us more competitive and ensuring the benefits of growth are enjoyed by every region.

A total of 3,000 individual projects have been completed since 2010. Now we’re going further: we’ve committed to invest more than £100bn in infrastructure by 2020/21, which includes the largest investment in transport for generations.

Every year we’ll be investing billions of pounds in construction projects, from roads and bridges to schools and hospitals – each project benefiting local communities.

To get these projects built on time and to budget, we need to give the private sector the confidence to invest.

“As the largest single client of the construction industry, government needs to ensure taxpayers’ pounds are spent carefully”

Having run a small business and worked in a global one, I know that you need as much information as possible to manage risks and spot opportunities. Our new published pipeline of upcoming projects will help companies do that.

World-class skills

More than that, as the largest single client of the construction industry, government needs to ensure that taxpayers’ pounds are spent carefully and wisely.

The government’s new construction strategy sets out how we will continue to support the industry and improve efficiency in the years ahead.

Employers often tell me that one of the greatest challenges they face is getting the right skills. I agree. We need to develop world-class skills and help to foster the next generation of construction professionals.

Our focus on apprenticeships should help achieve this: our aim is to deliver 20,000 apprenticeships through central government construction procurement by the end of this parliament.

“If red tape is standing in your way or you see an opportunity for government to work better, then let me know”

Next is the need for even stronger partnerships between government and its suppliers. To do that, we need to strengthen the government’s capability in terms of procuring and managing complex projects, while making the most of the latest digital technology and data. This, in turn, will help us to reduce the cost of projects by £1.7bn by 2020.

Bureaucratic hurdles

Third, we need to ensure government provides a helping hand to the sector, so we can build projects on time, to budget.

That means overcoming bureaucratic hurdles in the government machine, and ensuring all parts of government – central and local – are working together to help our partners deliver our infrastructure programme.

So if red tape is standing in your way or you see an opportunity for government to work better, then let me know. My door is open.

Builders, engineers, architects – Britain has a long, rich and proud history of those who have left their mark on our nation. From awe-inspiring bridges to the sewers that run beneath our streets, previous generations laid the foundations – quite literally – of our prosperity.

As we look ahead, we need to build on those foundations and transform our nation’s infrastructure so we can compete and prosper in the future.

Looking at what has been achieved in the last few years, I am confident we can do better still in the years ahead.

Lord Bridges is a parliamentary secretary within the Cabinet Office

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