UK infrastructure ‘not up to scratch’

By Sandy Guthrie16 September 2013

The UK government’s attitude to infrastructure may have no effect, or could even have a negative impact, a survey has found, and the government is being accused of seeming to lack the political will to tackle some major issues head on.

UK businesses are concerned that two years of positive UK government infrastructure policy announcements will not translate into delivery on the ground, and could undermine the return to sustainable growth, according to a new report released today by the Confederation of British Industry and professional services company KPMG.

The survey of 526 business leaders showed an improving UK infrastructure investment environment, but it found that two out of three firms (65%) believed that government policies would have no tangible impact, or even a negative one.

Only 35% of businesses believed that they would make a difference on the ground.

The report, Connect More, highlighted the importance of infrastructure to sustainable UK growth, yet with many outstanding issues such as the future funding of the road network, aviation capacity and clarity over the costs of the HS2 high-speed rail line, businesses said they expected the situation to get worse over the next five years.

CBI director general John Cridland said, “Quality infrastructure is vital for boosting exports, unlocking business investment across the UK, and supporting our leading firms – an essential element of a meaningful industrial strategy.

“I know that ministers share my enthusiasm for progress, but government has talked the talk on infrastructure for the last two years with too few signs of action.”

He said, “The faltering speed of delivery on infrastructure creates a worrying sense that politicians lack the political will to tackle some of the major issues head-on.

“We can’t afford any further delay. The coalition must show strong leadership and prove that the UK can deliver on a small number of projects over the next 18 months and reach a much-needed consensus on bigger issues such as aviation and roads reform.”

KPMG partner Richard Threlfall said, “The state of our infrastructure is not a theoretical debate.

“For UK business, it is about bottom line profitability and international competitiveness. It is about transport networks that get supplies in and products delivered on time, energy supply that is dependable at lowest cost and digital networks that offer fast connectivity anytime, anywhere.

Threlfall added, “Sadly the business verdict remains that UK infrastructure is not up to scratch. It is disappointing to hear businesses report once again a sense of more rhetoric than action.”

Dissatisfaction

He said that it was of particular concern that there was growing dissatisfaction with links between the regions, and the 73% of respondents who believed the UK’s local road network continued to deteriorate.

“Overlaid on this is the fear among businesses that too many critical investment decisions are being pushed back to beyond the next election. Our businesses are competing each day, every day in the global market, and we need to be investing now in building great infrastructure that is a help not a hindrance to our entrepreneurial efforts,” said Threlfall.

He added, “We know what good looks like – we need to get on and build it.”

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