Report: UK must do more to address infra gap

According to a new report by the MCA think tank, the UK government needs to do more and do it faster to improve its infrastructure.

The UK government needs to “up its game” when it comes to infrastructure, through better planning, funding and project delivery, according to a report released on Thursday by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) think tank.

“Our recommendations […] propose not just new policy initiatives, but also improved ways of working that will help deliver better outcomes for the country,” MCA chief executive Alan Leaman wrote in the report, titled “Building blocks: How Britain can get infrastructure right”.

A key recommendation called for the creation of an Independent Office for Infrastructure which would draw up a draft National Infrastructure Plan. The plan’s “starting point should be a clear vision of the sort of economy and service environment the UK requires,” according to the report’s findings. “This will focus effort on the right projects, and ensure better use of existing assets.”

Another area that needs to improve for infrastructure projects to move forward faster is funding. To this end, the report called for the extension of the Treasury Guarantee Scheme. It also recommended that the government clearly state the risks it is willing to take on and those it expects the private sector to assume. Clarity and certainty will make such projects more attractive for the private sector.

“Government should make more ambitious use of pension funds in supporting infrastructure,” was another recommendation aimed at improving funding. “These funds could buy project stakes, provide guarantees, or share the risks of project development,” the report stated.

In terms of speeding up project delivery, the report’s contributors recommend simplifying infrastructure procurement with a focus on outcomes. “Burdensome procurement processes should be relentlessly rooted out,” one key recommendation read.

The government should not tolerate delays or postponements and communities affected by infrastructure projects should get a greater share of the benefits, including a larger slice of business rate income, according to the MCA report.

Leading infrastructure experts and firms – which are members of MCA – offered their views and insights, which led to the 21 key recommendations featured in the report.

MCA is the representative body for management consultancy firms in the UK. Its member companies comprise around 60 percent of the country’s consulting industry, work with over 90 of the top FTSE 100 companies and almost all parts of the public sector, according to a statement issued by the association.