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Construction world gives cautious welcome to infrastructure investment plans

The construction industry has applauded the government’s commitment to overhauling the physical infrastructure of the nation but criticised a lack of new, immediate investment that would have helped kick-start the economy.

In its response to this afternoon’s autumn statement, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) welcomed the shift from current to capital spending to release additional funding for infrastructure projects.

The organisation also praised the continuing commitment to deliver private investment into the infrastructure sector, which would enable it to play its part in returning the UK to sustainable economic growth.

However, the association argued that new, immediate investment in shovel-ready projects would have provided the industry with the rapid boost it requires in terms of both jobs and growth.

CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “Over the last year we have demonstrated the contribution that infrastructure can make to growth.

“It is therefore a shame to see that this growth will be delayed due to a lack of immediate new investment in infrastructure. Given the headlines about ‘shovel-ready projects’ leading up to today’s speech, this can only be seen as an opportunity lost.”

Michael Ankers, chief executive of the Construction Products Association described improving the quality of infrastructure as an important step towards raising business competitiveness and stimulating economic growth.

He said that schemes such as the improvement to the A14 trunk road would improve access to key ports from our manufacturing heartland and help the country’s export drive.

But Ankers added: “Today’s announcements…do little to reverse the sharp fall in government capital spending – from £62bn in 2010/11 to £45bn in 2013/14.

“The most important step for the long term is to underpin investment on infrastructure with private finance and so the announcement that an additional £20bn of funding from pension funds and capital markets is particularly welcome.

“Funding of this kind will help create a long term sustainable framework for investment in our infrastructure which is set apart from the vagaries of government spending cycles.”

Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG said: “None of the long list of schemes reeled off with relish by the Chancellor is new  in conception, but the government’s decision to reduce revenue spending and increase capital by £5bn over the next 5 years will allow a number of schemes to go ahead which had previously been frozen by the austerity measures.”

Uwe Krueger, chief executive of engineering consultancy Atkins pointed out that the UK has world class engineering and design skills. “After a long recession [it] is hungry to deliver new rail-lines, power facilities and airport capacity in a cost-efficient and highly effective way.

“Recent successes such as the London 2012 Games prove that costs can be contained while value is maximised and I believe that infrastructure programmes are now a solid bet for long term investment.”

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