Commenting on the 2011 Budget, Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Director General Tom Foulkes said it was encouraging to see the Budget and accompanying Strategy for Growth show that progress is being made with some key policies that could pave the way for infrastructure to be the economic driver it promises – however he urged Government to now firm up accountability and build confidence that commitments will be delivered on:
Commenting on the Green Investment Bank announcement he said:
"The increase in the GIB’s start up fund and the commitment to an earlier launch are welcome. But despite these positive steps, the fact still remains that a GIB without the powers to borrow until 2015 at the earliest, will struggle to generate the scale of investment required and could reinforce a negative impression about the UK’s approach to infrastructure development. To succeed in attracting large volumes of private investment into infrastructure in the long term, we must instill confidence and certainty. It is vital therefore that over the coming years, Government demonstrates continued commitment to the principle of a bank, not a fund."
On the National Infrastructure Plan:
"The commitment to a Green Investment Bank will be key in reinforcing other reforms, notably the National Infrastructure Plan, aimed at providing confidence to investors. It is encouraging that the NIP forms a central plank of the Government’s vision for growth and that a second version of the plan will come by the end of 2011 alongside a much needed forward view of publicly funded infrastructure projects to create clearer visibility of the future infrastructure pipeline. However unambiguous political accountability at cabinet level must be established for the delivery of the plan and also the actual development of infrastructure on the ground."
On the carbon floor price:
"Investors will need to make major commitments in the very near future if the UK is to meet the pressing need to bring new low carbon generating capacity online. A floor price for carbon is a very welcome step in creating a more conducive environment to attract this investment, on the scale needed. In setting the floor price for 2013 and beyond, Government must work with industry to ensure the level it is set at leaves no doubt in investors minds of its commitment to facilitating the decarbonisation of the energy sector.
On the planning reforms:
"With infrastructure investment on the scale of £40-50bn needed per annum over the next decade, an efficient planning system is crucial to provide certainty to investors. The retention of a fast-tracked system for nationally significant infrastructure projects is welcome however we continue to have concerns about how the localism agenda will impact on the delivery of ‘larger than local’ infrastructure which is often key to unlocking regional growth. The willingness to consider extending central decision making to some ‘larger than local’ projects could potentially help, however further detail is needed on how these projects would be identified and prioritised.
"In terms of the time-limit for planning applications, we acknowledge this is a good idea in principle to prevent unnecessary delays, however it would need to be properly enforced without exception if it is to be at all effective."