Opinion: Talk is cheap but infrastructure costs

Grant Prior 12 years ago
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Yesterday’s blizzard of government announcements had worrying echoes of the worst days of Labour when the Whitehall machine was used to bamboozle industry.

The coalition government has now launched a National Infrastructure Plan to co-ordinate future schemes. But what does it actually mean today for work-starved contractors?

Well, not a lot, is the brutal truth. The whole thing smacks of jam tomorrow with meagre rations in the meantime hidden behind a baffling array of numbers and initiatives.

Politicians love big infrastructure projects with no definite start date. They grab headlines but don’t commit funds until long after the country has forgotten when construction was supposed to start.

The new National Infrastructure Plan is full of these major projects and pipe dreams. But real schemes which could keep local contractors working now are being starved of funds.

Maintenance spending for local road schemes has been cut by 25% while capital spending by the Highways Agency is being halved.

These are the real figures that hit the bottom line and they are causing real pain among regional firms as local authorities are left with decimated budgets to spread among their neighbourhood contractors.

The National Infrastructure Plan is part of the government’s push for private sector led growth in the wake of the cuts.

It is a major gamble and one the construction industry needs to be a winner.

For that to happen the government must make things happen quickly in the real world and not concentrate all its efforts on yet more studies, reports and advisory bodies.

A co-ordinated plan for the development of the country’s infrastructure is a sensible idea. But if it ends up as just a plan with no resulting work on the ground then it will be little use to anyone in the construction industry.

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