The National Infrastructure Plan Strategic Engagement Forum is a platform comprising the Infrastructure Alliance – a group of four trade bodies, including the ACE, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, the Construction Products Association and the Institution of Civil Engineers- and Treasury officials.
It is encouraging that the organisation has been established, not least because it implies the government is finally beginning to make good on its rhetoric around engaging the private sector.
But it is also perhaps an indication of the government’s realisation that it perhaps needs some help to deliver the new infrastructure it has long promised the country.
For the past two years, anyone who has criticised the government’s efforts to stimulate economic growth through infrastructure has been directed towards the National Infrastructure Plan, as if its mere presence would be enough to create jobs almost on the spot.
But after the more detailed version of the plan was published in November last year, there has been little enthusiasm from the private sector to get on and build things. And without government support, why should there be?
The new forum is perhaps the first real attempt to engage the private sector not only in what needs to be built in Britain, but also how the two sides can work together to achieve that aim.
Ministers had hoped that simply publishing the list, and engaging pension funds on the financing of such schemes, would be enough. Now, they might be starting to understand that the whole industry needs to be involved if the market is to be lifted out of the doldrums.