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Treasury minister throws his weight behind civil engineering cost cutting drive

Treasury minister Lord Sassoon has this week pledged his commitment to Infrastructure UK’s (IUK) cost cutting mission amid fears that it was being hampered by a lack of political leadership.

Sassoon is economic secretary to the Treasury. His brief includes infrastructure alongside industrial strategy, financial regulation, competition policy, financial services and banking policy, financial crime and debt management policy.

Despite this wide-ranging brief, he insisted this week that he was firmly committed to driving IUK’s agenda to cut the cost of UK civil engineering.

“My neck is certainly on the line. I am the minister that is specifically tasked with infrastructure among many other things,” he said.

Sassoon stressed the importance IUK’s detailed action plan which will be published with the Budget, next month.

“We have got to keep on with the detailed action plan. None of this stuff is going to get dropped”

Lord Sassoon

“We have got to keep on with the detailed action plan. None of this stuff is going to get dropped. It is critical that the industry is with us on this,” he said.

Sassoon was speaking as he toured major projects in the capital. The tour was organised a week after concerns about an apparent lack of political leadership were voiced at an IUK industry briefing (News last week).

Nichols Group chief executive Mike Nichols led the lobbying for more visible political involvement.

“For this valuable reform to succeed − unlike its predecessors − it needs a clear champion to drive it through,” he said. “Without that champion I am not optimistic about seeing any significant improvement.”

Industry leaders have told NCE that a Treasury minister must take ownership of the policy.

Sassoon emphasised the importance of eliminating the peaks and troughs in demand for civil engineering services.

He said an informal ministerial group chaired by cabinet office minister Oliver Letwin had been set up to improve communication between ministries with infrastructure budgets.

“For the first time we are bringing together every department that has a significant infrastructure programme,” he said.

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