Construction industry bodies have this morning urged the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition to make investment in infrastructure its top priority.
Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) national director Rosemary Beales welcomed the new coalition government, but warned there is no alternative to investing in infrastructure if the government wants to boost productivity, prosperity and quality of life.
“Investment in the country’s infrastructure, especially transport and energy, will play a fundamental role in delivering a sustainable, low carbon economic recovery.
“We know there will be a period of reassessment as the new government settles into office, but we want to see an early commitment to a streamlined planning process for major projects and to delivering Infrastructure UK’s strategy for national infrastructure,” she said.
Infrastructure UK is the government body established last year under Labour to develop a long term infrastructure investment strategy. It will report in the autumn.
The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) has issued an open letter to new prime minister David Cameron calling for concerted action in addressing the budget deficit and maintaining infrastructure investment.
It said that when it comes to rebuilding the UK’s economy, continued investment in essential infrastructure and buildings is indispensable.
“The ACE looks forward to working with the new cabinet and junior ministers from both parties to put infrastructure and construction at the heart of the recovery,” said ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin. “There are many challenges ahead and ACE wishes to play its part in achieving the aims of the country: revitalising economic growth and moving towards a low carbon economy.”
The ICE said it already had close working relations with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and said it looked forward to more working.
“ICE has had close working relations with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in opposition and it is clear to us that both parties recognise the role of infrastructure in underpinning a rebalanced and low carbon economy,” said ICE director general Tom Foulkes. “We now look forward to working with them in Government, and in particular, helping to establishthe best way of maintaining long term investment in our vital infrastructure without diverting money away from front line public services.”
The full Cabinet will be announced later today, but Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne has been confirmed as climate and energy secretary in the new coalition government.
He was previously Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary, following Nick Clegg’s election as party leader in 2007 and his own second unsuccessful bid for the leadership. His appointment will be watched closely, as the Liberal Democrats are staunchly opposed to Britain’s new nuclear power programme.
Overall, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is deputy prime minister and his party will fill five Cabinet posts. The following Cabinet positions have been confirmed:
- David Cameron - prime minister
- Nick Clegg (LD) - deputy prime minister
- George Osborne - chancellor
- William Hague - foreign secretary
- Liam Fox - defence secretary
- Theresa May - home secretary
- Ken Clarke - Lord Chancellor and justice secretary
- Chris Huhne (LD) - climate and energy secretary
The following appointment are understood also to have been made:
- Andrew Lansley - Health Secretary
- Danny Alexander (LD) - Scottish Secretary
- Vince Cable (LD) - Business and Banking (specifics unknown)
On policy, Conservative plans on deficit reduction, immigration and schools (incorporating the Lib Dem plans for the pupil premium) are understood to have been agreed as well as the reversal of the planned national insurance rises. The Liberal Democrats plan to reduce tax on the lowest earners is apparently agreed and will be funded by the removal of the Conservative inheritance tax policy. A referendum on the Alternative Vote and fixed parliaments is also supposed to have been agreed.
In its own letter to ministers and senior MPs CECA has highlighted 10 steps the government must take within its first 100 days in office:
- Provide clarity on outlook for public spending to 2014
- Commit to increase capacity in renewable energy and nuclear power
- Commit to delivering the National Policy Statement on energy
- Commit to the completion of Crossrail
- Commit to maintaining the managed motorways investment programme
- Launch consultation on National Policy Statement for transport
- Begin the process of developing a National Infrastructure Framework
- Consult on the establishment of the Green Investment Bank
- Enable local authorities to tackle the pothole crisis afflicting local and regional routes
- Ensure a clear process for support for businesses through the banking sector
“We also want to see early progress toward the establishment of the Green Investment Bank and a commitment to work with industry and other stakeholders to identify innovative means of financing much needed major projects,” said Beales. “Having promised to reduce the deficit by 50% by 2014, the new government faces a serious challenge if it is going to keep the country moving and keep the lights on in the long term.”
Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) chief executive Chris Blythe said there now needs to be a sustained programme of national investment.
“The physical infrastructure of this country underpins the entire economic and social infrastructure,” he said. “Investment in the built environment can spread the benefits of an economic stimulus to all parts of the UK. For every £1 spent on construction output, £2.84 is generated in total economic activity, and 92p of every £1 spent on construction is retained in the UK.
“We believe there are some positive noises around the skills agenda and in particular apprenticeships and graduates. The last recession taught us that if we neglect training and educating our workforces we will suffer in the long-term, and hinder our ability to react to any upturn in the economy. There is also a huge opportunity to develop the low carbon skills that the industry needs to meet the green agenda.
“Unlike the debates, this government’s success will be measured by its ability to turn the words into substance.”