Political uncertainty hampering UK infra

Most senior business leaders think key infrastructure will worsen over the next five years, according to a new survey.

Two-thirds of 443 senior business leaders canvassed for a new survey (67 percent) believe that energy infrastructure in the UK will worsen over the next five years. When it comes to transport, the figure is also more than half at 57 percent.

Respondents to the CBI/URS Infrastructure Survey also expressed the opinion that the UK’s infrastructure is lagging behind that in Australasia, North America and the European Union and has improved little since the first such survey in 2011.

Moreover, when asked to identify the culprit for this state of affairs, fingers point overwhelmingly in the direction of politicians. Some 96 percent said political uncertainty was discouraging investment and 93 percent cited political rhetoric as something that was damaging confidence in markets.

This is despite more than two-thirds of respondents expressing the view that government policies such as the UK Guarantee Scheme (welcomed by 87 percent) and pro-growth planning reforms (64 percent) are positive developments that will have increased the attractiveness of the UK as a place to invest in infrastructure over the course of this Parliament.

“Progress on infrastructure has been a case of two steps forward and three steps back for far too long,” said Katja Hall, deputy director general of the CBI, in a statement. “While the policy environment has improved, businesses still don’t see upgrades to mission-critical parts of our infrastructure on the ground in practice – and don’t expect to anytime soon.”

The survey found strong support (89 percent) for an independent infrastructure commission of the type recommended by a recent review by Sir John Armitt as a way of helping to determine what infrastructure the UK needs and when it needs it.

“There is a strong demand for a new approach to infrastructure that extends beyond the five-year electoral cycle,” said John Horgan, managing director for Europe, Middle East, Africa and India, in the statement. “This would transform how infrastructure is planned and delivered across the UK, enabling capacity to be a step ahead of demand.”