Independent body needed to develop sustainable UK infrastructure

An overwhelming majority of businesses want an independent body to be put in charge of UK infrastructure to encourage stable investment and a more sustainable future.

A survey from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) of 430 senior business leaders found that respondents see the UK’s infrastructure as internationally weak, lagging behind Australasia, North America and the EU.

Specifically, 96% thought political uncertainty is discouraging investment and as a result 89% favoured an independent infrastructure body.

In the energy sector, a reliance on outmoded fossil fuel-powered infrastructure means that 80% of firms say fears about future energy security affect their investment decisions, while 74% say the same about fears of higher costs. Accordingly the CBI has made energy efficiency a policy priority.

CBI Deputy-Director-General Katja Hall said: “Progress on infrastructure has been a case of two steps forward and three steps back for far too long. While the policy environment has improved, businesses still don’t see upgrades to mission-critical parts of our infrastructure on the ground in practice – and don’t expect to anytime soon.

“Politicians are too often seen as ducking the big, politically difficult questions looming large on businesses’ risk register, like runway capacity and long-term road funding, rather than grasping the nettle.

“Where hard decisions have been taken on issues like energy, populist political rhetoric threatens to send us backwards. Just recently National Grid warned that spare capacity margins are at the lowest level in seven years, so building up investor confidence couldn’t be more important.

Ed Matthew, the director of the Energy Bill Revolution charity welcomed the CBI report, adding: “The campaign to make energy efficiency an infrastructure investment priority continues to gather momentum and the CBI’s announcement is to be deeply welcomed from fuel poverty charities to some of the UK’s leading businesses. No other infrastructure investment can do so much for so many,” he said.

Transport Network

Transport infrastructure was another area of concern for businesses with more than half saying that roads had deteriorated, while 99% of businesses feel the case for HS2 would have been easier if it was part of a long-term infrastructure plan. Failing to address such issues inevitably leads to more cars on the road and more emissions.

“We’re at a crossroads, said Hall. “The next government must build on the successful policies of this Parliament, but we also need to see bold thinking and a renewal of the politics of infrastructure, finding a new way to agree upon and then consistently deliver the improvements we’ll need over the next fifty years – not just the next five.”

Back in August the manufacturers’ organisation EEF made a strikingly similar request, when calling for the creation of an independent authority to address Britain’s long-term strategic infrastructure requirements and encourage investment in energy and roads.

Brad Allen

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