New poll suggests those with the power need to get better at convincing the public of the need to make tough choices on infrastructure.
The public need to be convinced that tough choices on upgrading national infrastructure are necessary, according to a new poll for business lobby group the CBI.
The research shows that the government and businesses need to do a much better job of explaining the UK’s infrastructure investment needs, shifting the focus to why it matters locally and what benefits projects will bring, said the CBI.
It reveals that two thirds of people (65%) agree that decisions should be delayed so that the public’s views can be heard properly, even if this means that infrastructure weaknesses are not tackled when they need to be.
That compares with only 24% who don’t think decisions should be delayed. People are currently more concerned by the inconvenience and potential disruption of upgrade work than the risk of failing to act, said the CBI.
Nearly half of respondents are satisfied with the state of national infrastructure, with only a quarter (27%) dissatisfied. But according to the World Economic Forum the UK ranks only 28th in the world for quality of infrastructure.
Instead the CBI argues that infrastructure needs to be ‘sold’ to the public based on:
- The quality of life for local people - cited by 47% of respondents
- Local job opportunities - cited by 44%
- Local environment - cited by 37%
“Our research reveals a major disconnect between what infrastructure investment we need for our long-term economic success compared with what the public accepts,” said CBI director general John Cridland. “We urgently need to upgrade our energy infrastructure to avoid future power shortages, for example.
“To bridge this perception gap government and businesses need to redouble their efforts to tell a convincing human interest story, which people can relate to and which explains the urgency of the investment the UK needs.
“We are simply telling the wrong story on infrastructure. Rather than talking about gross domestic product and fiscal multipliers, we should be explaining about the local economy, a boost in local jobs for local businesses, like cafes, B&Bs and construction firms.
“The public will delay decisions if their views haven’t been heard - proper consultation and community engagement must be built in from the start or it will come back to bite the project later on.
The report spurred the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) to renew its call for an independent strategic body to assess the country’s infrastructure challenges.
Ceca chief executive Alasdair Reisner said: “This report shows more must be done to make the case for infrastructure, in terms that can build community support for the range of projects that are required to renew our national transport, energy, and communications networks.
“Last year Ceca called on the government to create an independent body to analyse the strategic challenges facing the UK, and to identify how infrastructure can play a part in resolving these concerns.
“The CBI’s report shows that such a body would go far in building public trust in infrastructure planning.”
Sellafield has chosen a Mace/Atkins/Areva joint venture as preferred bidder for the Silos Direct Encapsulation (SDP) project at Sellafield.
The SDP will process nuclear waste recovered from the Magnox Swaf Storage Silo, one of the oldest nuclear waste silos on the Sellafield site, and package it to make it ready for long term storage. It is the only project of its kind in the world, according to Sellafield.
Balfour Beatty has received £4.4M in government funding to set up a national training academy.
The contractor will invest a further £9M of its cash into establishing the academy, which will focus up-skilling the company’s workforce in the construction and engineering sectors and creating opportunities for young and unemployed people.
The academy will offer professional qualifications that it says will be transferable across the business and the industry.
“As the economic upturn gathers momentum, ensuring we have a workforce which has the training and skills to enable us to be a leader on the global infrastructure market remains our priority,” said Balfour Beatty chief executive Andrew McNaughton.
- In other news from the firm, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services has created a new chief operating officer. Uma Shanker has appointed to the role and joined today from Network Rail where he has held a number of senior leadership roles, most recently as a project director in the Infrastructure Projects team. Previously he has led major M&E projects including the introduction of high speed factory track construction trains, modular switches and the electrification upgrade of the West Coast Main Line.