While it appears there was nothing in the way of new specific projects in the promised White Paper, it was heartening to see the word Infrastructure written large in the Government’s thinking.
Designed to pull together ideas to increase UK productivity the 255-page document outlined five key areas in which the country needs to improve.
These were: Ideas; People; Infrastructure; Business Environment and Places.
For ‘Infrastructure’ it confirmed policies announced in the Budget which included increasing the National Productivity Investment Fund to £31bn, £500m in support of electric vehicles and £1bn to boost digital infrastructure.
But no new projects.
Business leaders were quick to give a broad welcome to the general direction of the paper including the CBI which praised the strategy for a long-term outlook and the British Chambers of Commerce which appeared pleased that its concerns had been absorbed by the Government.
Generally, though, there was a consistent, if unexcitable, view that the challenges outlined were all long-term and there had to be a consistent long-term plan to deliver the solutions.
Yet, at the same time, a new league table of the nations most attractive for investors in major infrastructure projects placed Britain fourth behind The Netherlands, Canada and Germany, with the UK slipping from the top spot.
Research by global law firm CMS attributed this to political instability caused by Brexit and the lack of a clear Parliamentary majority.
Lord Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Association, was quoted as saying: “The UK remains an attractive market for infrastructure investors, but it runs the risk of falling behind other nations.
“Swift decision-making on mega-projects, greater emphasis on smaller projects and a commitment to investment in tech utilities which will drive our economy for generations to come are essential components for a successful infrastructure strategy.”
Perhaps the paucity of new infrastructure projects is to blame for this?
Caroline Haynes, partner at Estates and Infrastructure Exchange, says: “While it is good the word Infrastructure appears in big bold letters in the document, the real challenge is to accelerate the delivery of the £600bn National Infrastructure Commission pipeline.
“Without that, productivity improvements are fairy dust.”