Autumn Statement: Industry relieved but where’s the long-term plan?

The infrastructure industry has breathed a sigh of relief following the UK chancellor’s Autumn Statement, with infrastructure being highlighted as a major priority to boost growth.

With Chancellor Jeremy Hunt having to make significant cuts to help balance the government’s books, there had been some concerns over how capital spending would be treated.

However, Hunt made infrastructure a key part of his growth agenda and promised not to cut “a penny” off its capital investment budget.

“The chancellor's commitment to a pipeline of much-needed rail and nuclear investment in particular brings certainty that can allow these schemes to continue in earnest,” said Patricia Moore, UK managing director at Turner & Townsend.

Mark Elsey, infrastructure partner at law firm Ashurst, added: “While we need fiscal prudence, an increasingly competitive and prosperous future Britain will not be achieved by cutting back our investment in the building blocks that allow our society to function effectively.”

Hunt’s plans to invest £6bn in energy efficiency were well received by the market, as well as the plan to establish a taskforce in the area. “The strategic approach taken to retrofit, already exemplified by the successes of the existing accelerator schemes, can set an example of how targeted spending can stimulate private investment and innovation,” said Moore.

David Morgan, executive managing director at Wates Property Services, agreed - but added that a “holistic approach to buildings” is required if Net Zero ambitions are to be achieved.

However, some in the industry have questioned the lack of long-term planning for infrastrucutre from the government, pointing out that although the National Infrastructure Commission was established to provide this overview, it appears to have limited influence on government policy announcements.