Is the UK’s infrastructure working? It’s a question that is well worth asking given the importance that our politicians place on the sector for the long-term health of the UK economy. Burges Salmon and Infrastructure Intelligence magazine have partnered to produce a report to create an informed debate on the challenges of delivering UK infrastructure projects, as part of the country’s future industrial strategy.
Whilst the survey showed that the industry largely agrees that the National Infrastructure Plan is “about right” in balancing short and long-term infrastructure priorities, there are a number of issues that clearly divide those working in the industry. In particular, the current state of collaboration in the supply chain, as well as the current level of consideration for the long-term impacts on local communities.
The majority of respondents to the survey (74%) think that national government should have the main responsibility for driving infrastructure delivery in the UK. This is interesting in the context of increasing devolution and decentralisation, with industry leaders sending a clear message that infrastructure delivery should still be led nationally.
That’s not to say that devolution is not welcome, 21% thought that local and regional government should be driving infrastructure delivery and 71% said that city/region deals will help the delivery of UK projects. The industry leaders the researchers spoke to were in the main enthusiastic about devolution, but there was a feeling expressed that the new political structures needed to deliver results on the ground and that was yet to be seen.
Too short, too long? The survey revealed an interesting split of views about the National Infrastructure Plan, which was launched by the government in 2010 outlining its vision for the future of UK economic infrastructure. Although 55% of respondents thought it was “about right,” significantly more than 31% of respondents thought that the plan was too short term. This reflects the views of a number of industry leaders who thought that the government needed to take a much longer-term and holistic view of the nation’s infrastructure needs.
In terms of improving the delivery of infrastructure projects, industry leaders were clear that procurement (25%), planning (24%) and funding (20%) were the three main areas that could be improved the most.
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