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21 January 2019

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Fixing the relationship

The UK infrastructure industry is in listening mode as it awaits the government’s review of infrastructure finance. Our event with Amey last week suggests a conversation can begin
Fixing the relationship

Sitting at the top of London’s City Hall last Thursday, it was good to hear the discussion on the relationship between the public and private sector. The event was hosted by Partnerships Bulletin in conjunction with Amey Investments, whose managing director Asif Ghafoor launched the firm’s first green paper on the industry.

Asking ‘What is the future of UK infrastructure development and finance?’, the document is a clear indication of the need for both the public and private sectors to engage with each other to come up with a way of working that is mutually beneficial. While many may well point, with some justification, to the hundreds of smoothly running PFI projects, there is no doubt that the debate around the model has become toxic, and finding a new approach that ties both sides more closely to one outcome – the public benefit – is now imperative.

Importantly for the future of infrastructure in the UK, the debate did not take place in a private sector vacuum.

First on the stage to discuss the industry with Antony Oliver, chair for the event and also the author of Amey’s report, was the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s director of infrastructure delivery, Stephen Dance.

Accepting that more needs to be done between the public and private sectors to make it clear exactly what the outcomes on any specific project should be, Dance demonstrated that the government unit is looking to work in partnership with the private sector to deliver infrastructure.

And he pointed out that the government, despite Chancellor Philip Hammond’s comments on PF2, has not given up entirely on privately financed infrastructure, as demonstrated by its continued support of the regulated asset base and initiatives like the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

Later, Dance was joined on stage by representatives from both Network Rail and Transport for London, demonstrating that there remains enthusiasm within public sector bodies to engage with the private sector.

Explaining Amey’s drive to develop this debate, Ghafoor told the audience: “We want to produce positive outcomes that politicians, industry and government officials can use, so that we can have a fact-based discussion.”

With a second event due to be held in Manchester in March, as well as plans for more events and papers that will keep the debate alive, Amey is certainly looking to be at the forefront of this discussion.

It is a vital time to be having such a conversation. As fellow panellist, Aviva Investors’ head of infrastructure debt Darryl Murphy put it: “I am of the view that the private sector has to change its mindset and push from the front. The private sector has to lead the way.”

To read the Amey green paper, click here, and to sign up to the Manchester event on 6 March, click here.

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The UK infrastructure industry is in listening mode as it awaits the government’s review of infrastructure finance. Our event with Amey last week suggests a conversation can begin

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