Infrastructure UK’s chairman Paul Skinner has claimed it is time to prioritise economic infrastructure after high levels of spending on social infrastructure in recent years.
Mr Skinner said that while infrastructure has jumped to the top of the government’s economic agenda, it needs to focus on getting the climate right delivering economic infrastructure after social infrastructure gains in recent decades.
He insisted that the government’s upcoming National Infrastructure Plan 2 will set out greater clarity than the first plan and will focus much more on highlighting specific projects.
“To exclude social infrastructure is to take aside aspects which do have an impact but previous governments have invested pretty heavily in social infrastructure. In the long run we have to get economic infrastructure right as there are such big issues to be addressed in transport and energy alone,” he said.
“Removing blockages to infrastructure investment will be a key feature of the second phase of the government’s growth review at the end of the month and will focus on actions the government can take now.”
Mr Skinner was speaking at The Economist’s Infrastructure Summit in London where aviation, financing and de-politicising infrastructure were key themes.
He said: “We will publish the UK’s forward, long-term view of programmes and that will give investors more certainty. We are finalising a list of 40 of the most strategic projects to make sure anything obstructing them will be unblocked.”
“The first plan (NIP1) was not definitive but its successor is much more complete and detailed and will set out specific projects in the way its predecessor did not.
“Ministers at the top of government are putting priority on getting spades in the ground as we have seen frustration that there has not been an immediate response [to NIP1] but you have to remember it was the first national infrastructure plan we have done.”
Speaking about the future of PFI, he added: “The importance of infrastructure has increased significantly over the past two years. It’s clear that private finance will continue to play an important role in underpinning infrastructure needs and the government is committed to ensuring PFI gives value for money.”
Meanwhile the new Institution of Civil Engineers president Richard Coackley has said adapting infrastructure to support a low carbon society will require “the greatest peacetime mobilisation of society in our time”.
Mr Coackley, director of energy development, power and energy at URS Scott Wilson, was making his inaugural address as president and said the issue is compounded by its urgency with a quarter of generating capacity coming offline in the next decade.
“The challenge to industry is to speak with one voice, being united in driving forward the priorities on which there is consensus – harnessing energy, sustainable growth and resilience,” he said.
“The challenge to the profession is to nurture and retain the talent that we will need in coming years. It is vital that we emphasise the ability of our profession to change the world. We need to inspire young people to look at engineering as the ‘career of choice’.
“The challenge to government is to act on its word. Although significant steps forward have been made, government must now deliver on its promises - ensuring a successful move from ‘the rhetoric’ into action.”