UK manufacturers call for independent body to drive infrastructure projects

Manufacturers have called for the creation of an independent authority to address Britain's long-term strategic infrastructure requirements and encourage investment in energy and roads.

EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, made the call in a report it recently published entitled ‘A UK Infrastructure Authority: Streamlining the infrastructure debate’.

The organisation claims that “decades of political wrangling and poor planning” must be stopped.

EEF stated that there were continued concerns over “neglected” road and energy infrastructure, as well as “prevarication” over expanding airport capacity.

To address these concerns, the business group has proposed the creation of a single UK “Infrastructure Authority”, with a parent board accountable to Parliament.

Every five years, the authority will be tasked with developing a new national infrastructure assessment which would look ahead at the country’s infrastructure needs over a ten, 20 and 50 year horizon at both national and regional levels.

According to EEF, the UK lacks the institutional framework to identify, plan and deliver major projects getting them from conception to completion in a streamlined way.

This leads to projects being identified too late, with little or no time for a proper assessment or public debate. As a result, when infrastructure projects do finally go ahead it is through desperate necessity, with the sky high costs associated with such an approach.

According to the report, a lack of spare infrastructure capacity could lead to short-term growth being constrained, for example through limited energy supply, increased road congestion or limited spare capacity at airports.

The study cites Ofgem, who predict a drop in spare electricity capacity from a margin of 14% in 2013 to just 4% by 2015.

EEF business environment policy adviser Chris Richards said: “Political prevarication and policy reversals have left Britain in the slow lane in developing its infrastructure for decades.

“We now have the opportunity to put in place a new independent system that will aid long-term planning supporting more of a consensus based approach in identifying future needs. All political parties need to commit to this in their forthcoming manifestos.”

“In a nutshell, a UK Infrastructure Authority would add value by horizon scanning for future challenges, and ensuring debates are backed by trusted analysis.”

Liz Gyekye

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