Take a ‘cross sectoral’ view of infrastructure, says Armitt

Government has to come to terms with the ‘cross-sectoral’ nature of infrastructure investment, Sir John Armitt, deputy head of the National Infrastructure Commission, told Waterfront’s conference on Meeting the UK’s Infrastructure Needs. Speaking just ahead of the Autumn Statement, he said based on the National Needs Statement published last month by the Institution of Civil Engineers, UK energy use was expected to increase by 50% by 2050 to accommodate a population rising to 75 million. He highlighted several areas where electricity use would increase: not just a switch to electricity for heat, but also the need to power the ‘big data’ and digital comms that will underpin infrastructure in future.

Armitt was determinedly upbeat about the Commission, although he admitted that as a government agency, instead of the planned statutory body, there were questions about how independent it could be. “More important than how you are described is how government responds,” he said, noting that government would be required not just to respond to NIC reports but to provide regular progress reports.  He welcomed the Autumn Statement announcement that infrastructure spend would be1-1.2% of GPD between 2020 and 2030.

KPMG’s Darryl Murphy said that there were five reasons to be cheerful about infrastructure: the need for economic stimulus will drive demand; the value of infrastructure is better appreciated by government; the need for infrastructure is better understood; there is a spirit of activism to drive investment; and there is a pipeline of work.

He put energy – and energy efficiency – at the forefront of infrastructure development, along with transport. He was also positive about the progress on delivering new infrastructure., saying there was a certain amount of ‘coherence’ with the NIC considering the long term and governments, when considering what they can deliver during a term of office, “Hopefully sharpening a plan into something tangible”

He said he expected public private partnerships – which have previously been used in the energy from waste sector – to make a reappearance.