Hannah Vickers, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) which represents the companies large and small that design, deliver and manage our national infrastructure, responds to the one year spending review and publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy:
“Our industry will be broadly happy with today’s announcements. Despite much of it being previewed over the last week, we still had the surprise of a £7.1 billion National Home Building Fund, which will be warmly received.
“There were important strategic moves too. The intra-city transport settlement will give local bodies more control over transport decisions and their own budgets, but we still would have liked to have seen more progress on Northern Powerhouse Rail – a missed opportunity for a clear and demonstrable commitment to levelling-up.
“Much will be made of the changes to the Green Book, which are probably more a symbolic gesture for a shift in culture, than anything else. Equally, the creation of a UK Infrastructure Bank will be welcomed, but I wonder whether the Chancellor is asking the wrong question – we already have access to finance, what we are lacking is the appetite from Government to deploy it and investible opportunities – so I’m unsure what problem exactly the Bank will be solving?
“We were also pleased to see the principles of the Construction Leadership Council’s proposals for a new local infrastructure fund to accelerate growth and recovery adopted. The £4 billion Levelling-Up fund can potentially be a catalyst for locally-led regeneration, but we hope to see its scope expanded and capability deployed ahead of the UK Infrastructure Bank. This will ensure we maximise its potential impact on recovery, rather than focus on individual tactical project investments.
“However, the Chancellor laid bare the difficult financial state we are in as a country and I worry whether we are being distracted slightly from what’s important. I’d like to see all energies focused on delivering a strong pipeline of projects across the country, so our industry can kickstart growth, act as the catalyst for post-pandemic recovery, and meet ambitions on levelling-up.”
Member-only briefing is available to download below.