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‘Put minister in charge of infrastructure delivery’ – ICE

Chancellor George Osborne must put a senior minister in charge of delivering the government’s National Infrastructure Plan, the ICE said in its Budget submission last week.

The Institution acknowledged that the chief secretary to the Treasury was to chair a committee of Cabinet ministers that will oversee the delivery of the top 40 projects identified in the government’s National Infrastructure Plan.But it said another minister should have overarching responsibility for delivery.

These include a Lower Thames Crossing, the Mersey Gateway Bridge, nuclear power stations and investment in Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

The Institution also urged Osborne to establish regularly and independently assessed performance measures for infrastructure delivery, similar to those produced for crime, health and education.

Osborne is due to present his latest Budget to Parliament next month.

The ICE wants the government to invest in infrastructure to boost the UK’s competitiveness and generate economic growth.

More project details needed

It is urging Osborne to publish more details of projects that are about to start, to help the supply chain prepare for them so that costs can be kept down.

The ICE’s submission also calls on the government to make it easier for students to take up civil engineering careers, through increased support for science, technology and mathematics.

“Government has taken many positive steps in the last year to place UK infrastructure at the heart of its plans to stimulate our economy and improve our quality of life,” said ICE director general, Nick Baveystock “However there is no room for complacency.”.

“UK infrastructure, despite improvements, should be better, and the coming Budget will be pivotal in showing government’s ­commitment to that.

“We hope to see the chancellor announce some measures that will build on the recent progress by ­enabling the actual delivery of this plan - importantly this includes measures which hold government to account on its progress both in terms of achieving the milestones of the plan itself and on its efforts to attract private finance.

Investor confidence

“Demonstrating accountability and setting up regular, high profile, public reporting on progress - especially through independent processes and forums - will give investors more confidence in this important plan and a platform for continuous dialogue between industry, investors and government. ICE stands ready to help assist with the development of such initiatives,” he added.

In its submission the ICE also welcomed the government’s recent commitment to investigate new funding models for infrastructure.

But it says that the government must develop a more flexible approach to privately financed infrastructure projects and look at ways of further clarifying the distribution of risk between public and private sectors.

The Institution’s submission also expresses fears that the government’s Green Investment Bank will be under resourced and will have a limited initial impact.

Efforts to attract overseas investment should also be stepped up, says the ICE.

The Budget submission calls for ministers to publish the amount of money they believe can be raised from privateinfrastructure investors.

It also welcomes the government’s decision to consider underwriting construction risks on some privately financed projects, in an attempt to boost investor confidence.

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