Industry backs Chancellor's new Infrastructure Commission appointments

New “long-term strategy to ensure the UK’s infrastructure truly meets the expectations of business and the general public” and £100bn spending commitment by 2020 underlines government’s support for infrastructure investment. 

George Osborne

The infrastructure sector today rallied behind Chancellor George Osborne’s new Independent Infrastructure Commission appointments today agreeing that the new body was the “best way to respond, and then ensure projects are delivered on time and on budget”.

Association for Consultancy and Engineering chief executive  Nelson Ogunshakin welcomed the "range and calibre" of the commissioners and said the new commission should reassure the infrastructure and engineering sector of the government’s commitment to the development of the UK’s infrastructure networks. 

The NIC commissioners:

Lord Heseltine – the former deputy prime minister who has long championed the regeneration of Britain’s inner cities through infrastructure investment

Sir John Armitt – the former chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority, and next year’s President of the Institute of Civil Engineer

Professor Tim Besley – a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee and the LSE’s Growth Commission, which recommended an independent infrastructure body

Demis Hassabis – artificial intelligence researcher, neuroscientist and head of DeepMind Technologies

Sadie Morgan – a founding director of dRMM Architects and Design Panel Chair of HS2

Bridget Rosewell – a senior adviser at Volterra and former Chief Economist and Chief Economic Adviser to the Greater London Authority

Sir Paul Ruddock – chairman of the Victoria & Albert Museum and the University of Oxford Endowment

"Important now is that the group meets quickly, establishes terms of reference, and begins engaging with all those concerned on the three priorities tasked by the chancellor, namely, transforming the connectivity of the Northern cities, tackling large-scale investment in London’s public transport, and ensuring investment in energy infrastructure," he said.

"An NIC is a key facet to ensure the strategy we have is robust, deliverable, and addresses the country’s current and future needs," he added. "The government, Lord Adonis, and newly appointed members of the NIC must ensure the momentum continues.”

Civil Engineering Contractors Association also welcomed £100bn spending commitment on infrastructure in this Parliament and the Chancellor’s pledge to “put infrastructure at the heart of next month’s Spending Review”.

“CECA warmly welcomes the appointment of the commissioners to their posts. The announcements to date reflect the wide range of expertise from within industry and the policy making sphere and will provide a good balance of perspectives to deliver a credible plan for the future,” said CECA chief executive Alasdair Reisner. 

“We have long called for a long-term strategy to ensure the UK’s infrastructure truly meets the expectations of business and the general public, and we welcome the establishment of the National Infrastructure Commission and today’s expert appointments which will deliver world class projects across the UK,” he added.

AECOM chief executive – Civil Infrastructure, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa,  Richard Robinson, also welcomed the announcement but flagged the results of recent research by CBI/AECOM highlighting business concerns over pace of infrastructure delivery.

“The Chancellor’s commitment to putting infrastructure at the heart of the Spending Review is welcome news, along with a £100 billion pledge on infrastructure spend by 2020. However, it is not yet clear if this is confirmation that all transformative existing programmes currently i their early stages will be funded. This confirmation would demonstrate long-term vision and real recognition that infrastructure investment fuels economic growth, helping the UK compete on the global stage" he said.

“Nearly two-thirds of businesses are concerned about the pace of progress on the delivery of infrastructure projects, according to the 2015 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey published yesterday. With over half believing they won’t see necessary upgrades in the next five years, the Chancellor’s announcement will surely boost business confidence.

Robinson added: “The launch of the National Infrastructure Commission is welcome news but it must be granted the necessary binding decision-making powers to initiate projects. Industry optimism will be short-lived if it becomes a long-grass forum into which politically charged decisions are kicked.” 

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, added: “The Government is heading in the right direction with the establishment of the National Infrastructure Commission, which has the full support of business.

"It’s vital that we make delivery of key projects the hallmark of this Parliament over the next five years," he said. “More than nine in ten firms say that the quality of infrastructure is critical to planning their investments, so rediscovering our Victorian forebears’ passion for building will help get projects fundamental to our economic future moving.”

London business lobby group London First also welcomed today’s National Infrastructure Commission.

“The infrastructure commission can play a vital role in confirming priority projects for the coming decade, such as Crossrail 2," said David Leam, Infrastructure Director at London First, and former special advisor to Lord Adonis at the Department for Transport. 

“However, the real test of the Chancellor’s resolve is the coming decision on airports expansion. If government fails to commit to implementing the Airports Commission’s report then the new infrastructure commissioners would be right to ask whether their advice would actually be followed.”

Sir John Armitt, who takes over as president of the Institution of Civil Engineers said hw was "keen to get started" on the Commission, having spent the last three years mapping out a plan for the Commission as part of Labour Party backed review. (see interview with Sir John Armitt here).

“I am very pleased to be invited to join the Commission," he said. "The NIC is something I have advocated and believe in - it is a means of ensuring we have longer term thinking when it comes to the development of UK infrastructure. Importantly, it also opens up the infrastructure debate, so we can ensure decisions are based on broad, unbiased evidence on the UK’s needs for the coming decade.

"I am keen to get started, and look forward to working with Andrew and the other Commissioners, who bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table,” he added.

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