Budget fails to set clear plan for infrastructure, says EC Harris

Today’s Budget was, as feared, a damp squib. It’s been clear for some time that we need to turn the National Infrastructure Plan into a long term integrated plan. What is becoming clearer is the need to turn this plan into action and to integrate infrastructure policy.

We must get these initiatives off the ground and ensure the investment, regulation and other enablers are put in place by the government to allow this. 

Today, Osborne spoke around energy investment again but with no detail on how or when this will occur.  Without an integrated plan or strategy, how are we are going to avert the long-term energy crisis the UK is facing? In response to flooding investment, whilst that investment is welcome, it only deals with short-term recovery, and we are surprised that there has been no reference to long-term flood prevention. 

The announcement on plans to create Britain’s first ‘Garden City’ reiterates this potential opportunity behind major infrastructure schemes in the UK and their impact on the UK economy. It’s great to see regeneration linked to major infrastructure development, reiterating the need for linked up policy but what Ebbsfleet does demonstrate is that when we do plan earlier for regeneration benefits, we turn this to action much quicker than we have in the past. The benefits of major infrastructure development like HS2 and Crossrail will rely on these benefits to support the business case to the UK. 

Plans to make £200M available for bidding to Local Authorities to improve highways is positive, as long as it is quick, speedy and simple. With over 350 Local Authorities in the UK, how is £200M going to reach the areas that really need it? Prioritisation of investment linked to the real benefit to the local economy is the challenge faced by the Local Authorities going forward.

As the UK economy starts to grow, we cannot continue to delay investment into our ageing infrastructure. Investment needs to be turned into action and the government needs to accelerate to ensure it can deliver on its promises.

Steve Bromhead is EC Harris UK head of infrastructure, industry and utilities