Manufacturers' organisation propose Infrastructure Authority to curb political wrangling

EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, have suggested a Non-Ministerial Government Department to drive infrastructure strategy

Traffic at a standstill on the A1 southbound in Gateshead
Traffic at a standstill on the A1 southbound in Gateshead

British manufacturers are calling for a permanent UK Infrastructure Authority to drive long-term strategic infrastructure requirements and encourage investment.

EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, made the call in a paper published this week, and say decades of political wrangling and poor planning must be stopped.

Some 6,000 of the organisation’s members were polled recently. Half of foreign-owned manufacturing businesses said aviation is a key factor in deciding where to invest and four-fifths of manufacturers identify the road network as critical to their business.

The EEF proposals include the creation of single UK Infrastructure Authority, with a parent board accountable to parliament.

It would be set up as a Non-Ministerial Government Department maintaining its impartiality, while also having the flexibility to work across Government.

Every five years, the Authority would develop a new National Infrastructure Assessment to look ahead at the country’s infrastructure needs over a ten, twenty and fifty year horizon at both national and regional levels.

The public, businesses, political parties and others will then be consulted on the long-term assessments and invited to submit their own ideas for projects. Just as with the current Airports Commission, the final decision would then be taken by the Government of the day, underpinned by independent analysis from the Authority.

Andy Tuscher, North East region director at EEF, said: “Political prevarication and policy reversals have left Britain in the slow lane in developing its infrastructure for decades. The neglect of our roads, the indecision on expanding airport capacity and the agonising over high speed rail routes connecting our major cities have only served to exacerbate the feeling that Britain’s infrastructure is not geared up to support growth.

“We now have the opportunity to put in place a new independent system that will aid long-term planning, supporting more of a consensus-based approach in identifying future needs. All political parties need to commit to this in their forthcoming manifestos.

“In a nutshell, a UK Infrastructure Authority would add value by horizon scanning for future challenges, and ensuring debates are backed by trusted analysis.”

EEF say the Authority would also be tasked with providing an annual progress report to Parliament to show what progress is being made in the development of infrastructure projects, and highlight the viability of solutions which may have been proposed.

It is thought the body would work in a similar way to the likes of the Airports Commission.

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