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VIEWPOINT | Shaping the infrastructure agenda

NCE Editorial

ICE director general Nick Baveystock explains how the ICE intends to continue to lead the post-election infrastructure debate

Prior to the General Election, the ICE’s message was clear: continuity, continuity, continuity – it is the Holy Grail for our industry. Without it, the infrastructure programme becomes tainted with uncertainty, our supply chain lacks confidence to invest in skills, and investors become apprehensive.

Pre-election uncertainty has now lifted, and the new government knows it must act swiftly to restore momentum. At the ICE, we will continue to lead the debate, shaping the infrastructure agenda for the future – and again our message is clear.

“We must improve our capacity to deliver infrastructure, and we must build resilience into our networks”

We need to establish a long-term framework for infrastructure that rebalances growth and is shielded from political short termism, drawing from the well-articulated solutions on the table.

We must improve our capacity to deliver infrastructure, and we must build resilience into our networks.

Firstly, a long term framework could be achieved by giving Infrastructure UK the remit and resources to evolve the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) into an evidence-based strategy backed by a rolling 10 year investment and delivery plan. This type of plan could be replicated on a smaller scale across the UK as part of government’s commitment to further devolution.

We have already seen some devolution success stories and will continue our work to accelerate this process.

Secondly, the skills and capacity challenges in our sector are well rehearsed.

The coalition government pledged to work with industry to map out skills supply and demand against the NIP, and the new government must take this forward.

It will enable us to set out a pipeline of work for people with key skills – retaining talent within our sector – and help us understand where the demand for skills lies in the future.

Building resilience

The third and final part of our agenda – resilience – is perhaps the most challenging. Resilience cannot be achieved through one-off cash injections to repair flood defences or patch up roads following extreme weather. It is a long term challenge which demands long term thinking.

During government spending reviews, the axe often falls on areas like flooding and local road management. The six year £2.3bn capital investment plan for flood management is not locked in and local authority budgets – which include funds for local road work and part fund flood schemes – are targets for cuts.

When pubic spending is tight, tough decisions must be made, but our resilience should not hang in the balance.

“During government spending reviews, the axe often falls on areas like flooding and local road management”

The ICE will continue to stress its importance, and as part of that, push for a longer term approach to maintaining assets. This includes commitment to a six year investment programme for flood defence maintenance – to match the six year programme for new flood infrastructure – and a preventative local road maintenance regime instead of reactive quick fixes.

The ICE sits at the heart of Westminster, Holyrood, Stormont, and the Welsh and London Assemblies.

Our membership has a wealth of knowledge and expertise to offer government – particularly as the shift to further devolution in England gathers pace – and we look forward to continuing our work to shape the infrastructure agenda.

  • Nick Baveystock is ICE director general

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