In conversation with Robert Jenrick
Why is improving our infrastructure so important?
The UK’s productivity performance currently lags behind other advanced economies. If we matched what German workers are doing, our economy would be 35% larger, which shows the incredible scale of the opportunity.
In the UK we are currently investing record amounts in infrastructure. Roads, rails, and cables boost productivity by developing networks and enabling businesses and individuals to connect more quickly, cheaply and efficiently. To this end, the government has established a £31bn National Productivity Investment Fund to target investment in areas that are critical for improving productivity. These include digital infrastructure, research and development, transport and housing.
The world of work will transform over the next 20 years so we must ensure that both our new and existing infrastructure is adaptable to fast growing technological change, from autonomous vehicles to new forms of broadband. That’s why the Government is investing over £1 billion to stimulate the market to build the next generation digital infrastructure the UK needs for the future.
What infrastructure projects are you prioritising over the coming years?
In the UK we have a strong record of delivering our infrastructure priorities, having delivered over 4500 infrastructure projects since 2010. Over the coming years we will build on this, with a variety of projects in the pipeline such as HS2 – the first new North-South railway in this country for over a century, the largest road-building programme since the 1970s and the next generation of broadband and mobile infrastructure.
We are also joining up different types of infrastructure investment to maximise impact. One example of considerable strategic importance is the development of the Oxford to Cambridge Corridor. The new road and railway linking these two cities with Milton Keynes and Bedford will bring together an economic and R&D powerhouse, driving economic and productivity growth and much needed housing.
This summer, we are also looking forward to the publication of the first ever National Infrastructure Assessment. The National Infrastructure Commission takes a long term view on the UK’s long term infrastructure needs, and their assessment will cover all areas of economic infrastructure and make recommendations on where the government should invest over the next 30 years.
How can we deliver infrastructure more efficiently in the future?
In December the IPA published a £600 billion pipeline of projected public and private investment in infrastructure over the next ten years. It is vital we get the most out of this investment but we know that the sector faces structural issues that limit performance such as fragmentation, low-profit margins, and short termism. This means the sector can’t always invest in new skills and the innovation that will boost productivity and improve delivery.
In response to this we set up the Transforming Infrastructure Performance (TIP) programme – an ambitious cross-government initiative that will, over the coming decade, improve the planning, delivery and operation of infrastructure. It explores how the government and industry can work together to benchmark performance, select the right projects, improve integrated planning and increase uptake of technologies and innovations.
The government drives around 25% of construction output, so it is important we lead by example and use our purchasing power to drive more modern methods of construction that will make delivery more efficient. To this end, we have recently announced that five of the biggest spending departments will adopt a new presumption in favour of offsite construction by 2019.
Robert Jenrick is the Exchequer Secretary at HM Treasury, and will be speaking on ‘Improving Infrastructure Delivery across the country’ at the Public Sector Show on 26th June, at ExCel London.