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Prime minister’s ICE visit was ‘pivotal’ says president

Prime minister David Cameron’s decision to make his pre-Budget infrastructure announcement at the ICE last week is testimony to the respect, reputation and influence ICE and its members have built through sound, consistent advice and expertise, said ICE president Richard Coackley.

Coackley and ICE director ­general Nick Baveystock had a private meeting with Cameron before the announcement, during which they explained the ICE’s views.

Coackley said Cameron’s visit was a “proud moment” for the ICE and signified far more than the Institution’s headquarters simply being the venue for the announcement. 

During his speech to an audience of construction leaders, Cameron put the prospect of widespread private funding for the roads network firmly on the government’s agenda (News last week).

He also called for a “horizon shift” in infrastructure investment in the UK, across transport, energy and telecommunications.

“Voice of infrastructure”

“The fact that the PM insisted on delivering his speech at the ICE, invited the director general to open the session and worked with us closely on the government’s plans, reaffirms our position as the trusted, independent ‘voice of infrastructure’ and the natural place to debate the future of our infrastructure,” Coackley said.

The ICE has played a key role in bringing infrastructure higher up the political agenda over recentyears, through its early campaigning for a national infrastructure bank, its calls for a long term plan for infrastructure delivery and its respected “State of the Nation” report series. It has also built close relationships with government departments through its work on Infrastructure UK’s Cost Review and its recommendations on the UK’s first National Infrastructure Plan.

Baveystock stressed the importance of infrastructure to society and the economy as he introduced Cameron to the audience.

“Our infrastructure provides the glue that holds modern ­society together - quite simply, our quality of life depends on our infrastructure functioning ­effectively,” he said

“Over the last few years government has clearly recognised the importance of continued investment in infrastructure to society, despite enormous pressure on public finances. Importantly, it has also realised that infrastructure forms the backbone of our economy - through its impact on productivity, its ability to create jobs and its ability to unlock sources of competitive advantage. It is without a doubt a sector that must be nurtured.

Long term commitment

Baveystock also reiterated to the audience of industry leaders, politicians, investment bankers and media that the National Infrastructure Plan is not just a plan but a programme of work that will require long term commitment and joint thinking from industry and government.

“The ICE recognises that government’s role is as much a ‘facilitator’ as a traditional client,” he said. “Owners of infrastructure, investors and the civil engineering supply chain are going to have to be kept pointing broadly in the same direction - and also work together to establish priorities in areas such as skills, supply chain development and research and innovation priorities. The ICE is ready to help with this task.”

Coackley concluded: “The prime minister’s announcement has had a major impact, with infrastructure dominating the national media for two days last week - and ICE featuring in much of the coverage.

“It is a very clear message from the top of government that infrastructure is a real long-term priority and more needs to be done to ensure it delivers as a central plank of the growth strategy.”

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