Why we must commit to infrastructure
Whichever party wins the General Election, they must place infrastructure at the heart of economic plans with priority for investment, if the UK is to succeed in driving long-term economic growth and job creation, regenerating our communities and improving quality of life for the public.
In its Manifesto for Infrastructure published today, ICE warns that failing to make infrastructure a priority, or instead opting for quick electoral wins, could result in “other competing nations taking our edge and the UK’s resilience diminishing”.
Whether it’s energy, flood defences or transport; ICT, waste or water networks. They all have one thing in common.
They are the foundations of all modern societies. They are transformative and regenerative. They create connectivity and equip us with skills. They are all infrastructure.
ICE, as the voice of infrastructure, is calling on the next government - whoever is in power come May 2015 - to place infrastructure at the heart of its economic plans.
Government must have a long term vision for infrastructure and a framework that places that vision above political fault lines, aided by an independent body responsible for strategy, planning, performance and public engagement.
Yet there shouldn't be a blank cheque. Infrastructure should deliver value for money to consumers and clients. An independent infrastructure body should report to Parliament on whether projects are doing just that. But it can also be delivered by promoting measures to change consumer behaviour, such as rolling out smart electricity meters to reduce consumption and emissions.
This feeds into another goal, that of embedding the shift to a low carbon economy and resilience to climate change, into decision making – making new infrastructure ‘future proof’.
But those decisions shouldn't all be taken centrally. To unlock economic potential and rebalance growth across the UK, devolution of transport powers to city regions should be accelerated - enabling decisions to be taken by those who actually use local transport systems.
Delivering infrastructure requires manpower. More than 1.8 million people with engineering skills are needed by engineering employers over the decade to 2022. Students must be given a pathway into engineering, and apprenticeships must remain available to all ages so we can double the number of entrants to the industry.
In 2013 the construction industry was responsible for 6.1% of the UK’s economic output and created over 2 million jobs - that’s 6.3% of total jobs.
It is for these reasons that the next Government must Commit To Infrastructure. Failing to make it a priority – or going for quick and easy electoral wins – will see infrastructure revert to its Cinderella status.
Join us in pledging to keep infrastructure at the top of the political agenda.