Construction minister Mark Prisk has said the government will look to extend its rolling forward programme of work beyond two years once the scheme was up and running.
Speaking this week, Mr Prisk confirmed the announcement in the Budget of a two-year infrastructure projects pipeline was just the start of a drive to help industry find efficiency savings.
Asked by Construction News whether a two-year programme would be sufficient to help the industry find the £3 billion annual savings identified by Infrastructure UK, Mr Prisk said: “Our view was to get the principle right of a two-year plan, quarterly updated, so that we get up and running.
“Once we have got that running, I would like to see us move beyond two years. But let’s walk first.”
The minister would not be drawn on how far the government’s ambitions extended. But he said it was vital that departments across Whitehall became engaged in the process before an extension could be considered.
Mr Prisk also appeared to backtrack from a previous claim that the forward pipeline would only cover civils projects.
Speaking at a strategic forum meeting shortly after the Budget, Mr Prisk suggested that public sector buildings projects such as schools and hospitals - described by the government as social infrastructure - would not be included on the programme (CN 31 March, page 7).
But he told CN this week: “It is infrastructure and construction projects where the public funding is committed. So where you have got a construction project where there is funding committed, then that will be incorporated into the two-year plan.”
The news was welcomed by trade bodies that were concerned by Mr Prisk’s initial comments.
UK Contractors Group director Stephen Ratcliffe said: “We welcome the fact that Mr Prisk is listening in relation to both the timescales and the fact that it is going to be comprehensive.”
Civil Engineering Contractors Association director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “In discussion with industry, the
government has received strong support for moves to increase the visibility of the forward programme for public sector investment.
“We welcome the announcement of a two-year rolling programme that covers the whole of public sector construction.
We hope that, once in place, it will help to deliver results that encourage public clients to open up even further, offering greater clarity of long-term forward programmes.”
The forward pipeline formed the centrepiece of the Infrastructure Cost Review Implementation Plan, which the government hopes will slash the cost of procuring major projects.
Chief construction adviser Paul Morrell will chair a joint programme management board to ensure the workings of the report are implemented consistently with the measures in the wider public sector.