Infrastructure in the budget – a 50 year vision?
In the stack of papers published alongside today’s Budget was one on the Strategy for National Infrastructure. It might not sound exactly thrilling, but this document could lay the foundations for a more coherent approach to the infrastructure which supports the UK economy than we have seen for decades.
Projected demand for infrastructure investment is likely to be £40-50bn per year until 2030 according to the report, significantly more than the recent average of around £30 bn per year. The document promises to deliver a National Infrastructure Framework by the end of the year with a 50-year vision for the UK’s infrastructure and a 10 year plan of the outcomes needed to deliver it. It covers transport, energy, water, waste and communications and the Green Investment Bank will be developed under the remit of the strategy.
It also gives a welcome nod to the need to adapt our infrastructure to the climate change that is already locked into the system as well as reducing our carbon emissions, something the TUC has promoted for some time.
The strategy will inform public spending priorities, in support of the 2009 PBR commitment to target infrastructure investment where it generates economic returns. It also recognises the interdependencies between different elements of the national infrastructure and the fact that work to develop each sector cannot take place in isolation (yes, it might be surprising that this is new, but anyway…).
The TUC’s budget submission called for a central co-ordinating role for Infrastructure UK and a long term strategic approach to planning and funding major projects, so we are delighted to see this in today’s Budget. We also argued that the best way to ensure the infrastructure strategy was fair, workable and appropriate was for Infrastructure UK to be tasked with co-ordinating input from the Infrastructure Planning Commission, government departments, regional development agencies, unions and business, and we’ll be looking for commitments on this – as part of a Just Transition.
We’ll be looking at the detail and the plans for implementation but if they match the rhetoric then this might be the first time such a strategic co-ordinated approach has been attempted since the post-war reconstruction – and with a much greener tinge.