Infrastructure must be ‘at the heart’ of policies for the next government if the UK is to drive lasting economic growth and improve national resilience, engineers have said.
Publishing its Manifesto for infrastructure, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) today called on political parties to make infrastructure a national priority by establishing a long term vision for national projects that goes ‘above political fault lines’.
Among 10 policies the ICE wants adopted, calls were raised for accelerated devolution of transport powers through city-region transport authorities responsible for roads and public transport.
The ICE pushed for stronger joint working between central government and local authorities to help clear the £12bn road maintenance backlog, alongside a maintenance investment programme for flood risk management.
Resilience needs to be embedded into the criteria for new projects, while a ‘world-class’ engineering workforce must also be secured to drive innovation – the manifesto outlined.
ICE director general, Nick Baveystock, said: ‘Whichever party wins the General Election, infrastructure should form a central plank of its economic policy - building on the progress already made and using infrastructure to realise the UK’s full economic potential. Failing to give it a front row seat, or opting for shorter term electoral wins, could lead to other competing nations taking our edge and the UK’s resilience diminishing.
‘This is no time for the faint hearted – the next Government must establish a long-term vision for infrastructure and a framework that facilitates cross-party consensus.’
Labour has already vowed to fast-track creation of a national infrastructure commission if it takes power this summer, building on proposals put forward by former chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority Sir John Armitt. The ICE today agreed that such a body should be formed by restructuring existing Treasury body Infrastructure UK.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls last week confirmed infrastructure investment was ‘a key part of Labour’s economic plan’, adding that measures would ‘hold ministers’ feet to the fire’ to ensure projects are delivered.
Conservative proposals are likely to centre around support for a ‘northern powerhouse’, which has become a key focus of recent policies to rebalance the UK economy.
Chancellor George Osborne has outlined how ‘the whole of the north can be made much greater than the parts’ if cities are bought ‘closer together with high speed transport’.
Mr Baveystock added: ‘We need to build the UK’s resilience, rebalance growth, and secure a world class engineering workforce. There are also some tough decisions ahead – not least on the UK’s aviation policy and our future energy mix. But with concerted political commitment, challenges can become opportunities, and we can deliver the infrastructure we need for the 21st Century and beyond.’