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Next Government must prepare long term infrastructure plan

ICE infrastructure body publishes Manifesto For Infrastructure

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has published its Manifesto for Infrastructure today, urging whichever party that wins the General Election to place infrastructure at the heart of economic plans, if they want the UK to succeed in driving long term economic growth and job creation, regenerating communities and improving quality of life for the public.

The UK construction sector contributed £92.4Bn of the overall economic output total in 2013, which works out at 6.1% of the total. In the last quarter of 2014, 2.1M UK jobs were held within the sector.

In the Manifesto for Infrastructure, ICE warns that failing to make infrastructure a priority, and to build on these figures, could result in “other competing nations taking our edge and the UK’s resilience diminishing.”

The leading engineering body has called on the next UK Government to adopt a framework that puts a long term vision for UK infrastructure above political fault lines – building on progress from the last few years, rather than starting from scratch in order to maintain momentum.

The Manifesto also urges the successful political party, or parties in the event of another collation, to take steps to unlock to potential of the country’s city-regions. This potential, the body says, could help rebalance growth and ‘future-proof’ the infrastructure by embedding climate change resilience into decision making, and could up the ante when it comes to securing a world class engineering workforce for the country, that could drive innovation and economic productivity.

The ten key policies which ICE believe can help deliver these goals have been outlined in the Manifesto for Infrastructure and include:

  • The creation of an independent infrastructure body – ideally by restructuring the existing Treasury body Infrastructure UK to reduce delay and uncertainty
  • Swift action on the Davies Commission recommendations, paving the way for delivery and avoiding further delay in resolving the UK’s aviation hub issues
  • Working with local authorities to clear the road maintenance backlog and commit to a planned, preventative maintenance regime – addressing defects on a more long-term ‘value for money’ basis
  • To “future proof” new infrastructure by embedding resilience – and the “domino effect” across networks when one system fails – into criteria used to make decisions on which projects go ahead
  • Implementing Energy Market Reform fully and smoothly with changes kept to a minimum, to entrench cross-party support for electricity decarbonisation
  • The commitment to a long-term maintenance investment programme for flood risk management
  • Acceleration of the devolution of transport powers by creating city-region transport authorities responsible for roads and all public transport, supported by a national transport strategy for England
  • A commitment to increasing the quality – not just the quantity – of apprenticeships so those on schemes achieve a qualification which sets them up for life, and the UK benefits from a pipeline of talent
  • The assurance that Ofsted will rigorously inspects schools’ careers guidance so the range of “STEM” paths available, including vocational and technician roles, are communicated to students.
  • The development of an Office for Resource Management in Government to entrench a “circular economy” ethos across all departments and promote resource management as a driver of growth

ICE Director General, Nick Baveystock, said: “Infrastructure is the foundation of all modern societies –it not only boosts GDP and job creation but regenerates communities, connects people and places and equips future generations with desirable skills.

“The benefits of infrastructure investment are now well established across political divides, resulting in some welcome schemes and initiatives and infrastructure rightly positioned high on the political agenda. We are however at a critical time – where the scale of the UK’s needs is large and growing,  public finances remain tight and we are slowly emerging as an attractive market for infrastructure investment – it is vital therefore that we do not lose impetus.

“Whichever party wins the General Election, infrastructure should form a central plank of its economic policy – building on the progress already made and using infrastructure to realise the UK’s full economic potential. Failing to give it a front row seat, or opting for shorter term electoral wins, could lead to other competing nations taking our edge and the UK’s resilience diminishing.

“This is no time for the faint hearted – the next Government must establish a long-term vision for infrastructure and a framework that facilitates cross-party consensus. We need to build the UK’s resilience, rebalance growth, and secure a world class engineering workforce. There are also some tough decisions ahead – not least on the UK’s aviation policy and our future energy mix. But with concerted political commitment, challenges can become opportunities, and we can deliver the infrastructure we need for the 21st Century and beyond.”