UK wants private sector to pay for £800bn of infra

Business secretary Vince Cable has positioned infrastructure as a key pillar of the new coalition government’s economic growth strategy and wants the private sector to pay for four-fifths of the £1trn in infrastructure the UK is estimated to need over the next 20 years.

Vince Cable, Britain’s business secretary, put infrastructure spending centre-stage yesterday as part of the coalition government’s three-pronged programme to grow the UK out of recession.

Cable: regulatory
certainty is key

Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) estimates the UK will need to spend between £40 billion (€48 billion, $62 billion) and £50 billion a year over the next two decades on green energy, better transport links, water and wastewater projects, and other infrastructure. It wants the private sector to foot four-fifths of a bill that could rise to £1 trillion over the next 20 years.

During his presentation of BIS’ report Cable said he would like to tap pension funds to finance infrastructure, adding: “We want to connect the supply of capital with the demand for capital”. However, BIS recognised that attracting large-scale private financing for infrastructure is not easy and highlighted the government’s role in facilitating it.

“It is important that the regulatory framework in utility sectors, including transport, energy, communications, water and waste, is appropriate, stable and able to facilitate the necessary investment,” the report read.

“By getting the right regulatory environment, communicating and sticking to strategic priorities and helping business to see the potential return on their investment, government can provide the certainty necessary for private investment,” BIS added.

Cable also referred to initiatives such as the UK's green investment bank as an example of the government's ability to help stimulate private investment in infrastructure.

BIS said further details on the government’s infrastructure plans will be unveiled in the autumn, when Infrastructure UK releases its National Infrastructure Plan, which will outline the country’s long-term infrastructure priorities.