Balfour back NIC proposals but urge clarity and long-term funding from government

The infrastructure giant Balfour Beatty has stressed how National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) recommendations “cannot be left to gather dust” and has called on the government to financially back proposals and to publicly release timetables and figures to provide certainty over projects.

Balfour has published a report in response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s first ever appraisal of the country’s future infrastructure needs for the next 30 years. It states how a post-Brexit Britain will only prosper if public sector procurement processes are changed and the industry’s supply chain is invested in.

“Building on firm foundations: A response to the National Infrastructure Assessment”, highlights a series of thirteen key points and recommendations which must be considered when planning a decisive and detailed course to action.

The UK firm says the government needs to act upon the NIC assessment by setting out a clear timetable and blueprint for investment. While skills shortages and structural issues which continue to plague the industry must be addressed to ensure companies are in a position to deliver results.

Those behind the report highlight specific proposals on a range of infrastructure issues. For example, while welcoming a recommendation in the NIA that government provide £500m a year of funding from 2025/26 to 2034/35 on local road maintenance, Balfour say this may not be enough given the poor state of local roads and the underinvestment of recent years.

The group also supports the NIA’s recommendations on flooding, but also believes that a ‘presumption’ towards a higher and more consistent defence standard should be provided in larger cities, backed by developer funding.

Leo Quinn, chief executive of Balfour Beatty, says it’s imperative the industry gets the clarity it craves from the government about which recommendations will be pushed ahead with and to what timescales.

“While we support most of the recommendations in the NIA, the outstanding question now is what it actually means for the future. We have seen infrastructure assessments before. This one is too important to be left to gather dust until the next NIA in five years’ time. To realise the vision set out in the NIA, and it needs clarity as to how it will react to points such as the recommendation that the government’s plans for up to six nuclear power stations be put on hold. To get the delivery right and to invest in skills, supply chains and equipment, industry needs the confidence that the investment will be worthwhile. Not just a visible pipeline, but a firm one.”

Another central theme in NIC’s assessment is for £43bn of long-term transport funding for regional cities with an increased role for metro mayors in the development of infrastructure within their regions.

Balfour says it agrees mayors and city leaders should develop and implement long-term integrated strategies for transport, employment and housing by 2021.  The firm believes devolved infrastructure budgets will provide the revenue certainty areas need to determine their own destinies, and ensuring that the decisions are made by those with the best understanding of local needs.

Furthermore,  in the midst of uncertainties surrounding government backing for major projects like HS2, the report states how a clear commitment from ministers to both Crossrail 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail along with a clear timetable and funding is crucial for improved connectivity in the UK.

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