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Infrastructure commission will 'hold ministers' feet to the fire', says Balls

Contractors have welcomed the news that Labour shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, will prioritise setting up a national infrastructure commission if his party is elected in May.

“As a country we have got to stop kicking big decisions into the long grass,” Balls will say in a speech later today. “The commission will then ensure government comes up with credible plans to meet them – and hold ministers’ feet to the fire to deliver those plans.”

Balls said Labour would include legislation to set up the commission in the Queen’s Speech following the election. Opposition leader Ed Miliband promised to set up the commission last year, based on a report he asked Olympic Delivery Authority chairman John Armitt to write.

“We need an ambitious vision to ensure Britain has a transport network that spreads prosperity to every part of the country,” Balls will say. “Infrastructure investment is vital to boosting growth and productivity in a way which raises living standards for the many, not just a few at the top.”

Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) chief executive Alasdair Reisner said: “Ceca has been a long term proponent of an independent infrastructure commission.

“Where there has been increased certainty, civils contractors have had the confidence to invest in skills, equipment and innovation to deliver the expected workloads efficiently.

“It is imperative that contractors maintain this confidence during the election period and that there is no tearing up of investment programmes in the early days of a new government as was seen in 2010.

“Post May 2015, we would hope that any transition to the new commission would recognise the effectiveness of Infrastructure UK and would not diminish it’s activities.”

Institution of Civil Engineers director general Nick Baveystock said: “This is a valuable contribution to the infrastructure debate - the analysis of what is stifling UK infrastructure development is correct, we agree on the need for some form of independent body and the proposed Commission’s remit rightly centres on a set of solid, UK wide infrastructure goals.

“Concerns around the stalling of momentum in the transition to any new system remain, and we await further detail on these arrangements, however the Labour Party has put a well-argued solution to our infrastructure governance issues on the table and other parties must now also take a position.”

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