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Government thinking on infrastructure 'short-sighted' says report


A leading political think tank has called the government’s approach to infrastructure decision making short-sighted and criticised its overuse of private finance to fund projects.

In a new report, the Institute for Government (IFG) called for an overhaul of the way government makes decisions about major transport and energy projects.

Its How to transform infrastructure decision making in the UK, report made a range of recommendations, citing late delivery or overspending on a range of projects.

It says the government should create a pan-departmental strategy for infrastructure and reboot the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), giving it more independence and executive power.

The IFG also said the “government favours private finance for infrastructure projects (despite) limited evidence that it offers better value”.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Strengthen the NIC, giving it greater independence as an executive non-departmental public body
  • Appoint commissioners to the NIC from a wider range of backgrounds and
  • Extend the NIC’s remit to housing
  • Create a commission for public engagement, based on France’s Commission Nationale du Débat Public
  • Develop a cross-governmental infrastructure strategy
  •  Improve cost benefit analysis of proposed projects
  •  Ensure civil servants have access to commercial skills so that ministers can better understand investor perspectives when financing projects through the private sector

IFG associate director Nick Davies commented: “The UK desperately needs an infrastructure strategy to address regional inequalities, worsening productivity levels and the housing crisis. But the government’s decision-making process remains short-sighted and major infrastructure projects cost the taxpayer more than they should. 

“While the UK needs to invest more in infrastructure, investments must be made wisely. Picking the most cost-effective options at every stage – from project selection to finance option – is critical.”

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