Government 'must improve the way it makes infrastructure decisions'

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The Government’s inability to make smart decisions on badly needed infrastructure means rail, road and energy improvements are being delivered late, over-budget and – in some cases – not at all, a new report finds.

Published by the Institute for Government, How to transform infrastructure decision making in the UK says that Great Western cost overruns and delays to South East airport expansion show the current process is not keeping up with the demands of a modern economy. The UK should learn from other countries, such as France and the Netherlands, which have better decision making processes. says the Institute.

The report also finds that government favours private finance for infrastructure projects, but there is limited evidence that it offers better value. Government should put more effort into gathering evidence on different kinds of projects.

While civil service commercial skills have improved, the recent collapse of Carillion, seemingly in part due to losses on three private finance deals, highlights the need for better management of these contracts.

The report recommends that the Government:

  • create an infrastructure strategy for the entire country
  • improve the way it uses cost benefit analysis and develop evidence for finance options
  • establish a Commission for Public Engagement to involve local communities in major projects
  • give the National Infrastructure Commission greater independence.

Nick Davies, Associate Director at the Institute for Government, said, “The UK desperately needs an infrastructure strategy to address regional inequalities, worsening productivity levels and the housing crisis. But the Government’s decision-making process remains short-sighted and major infrastructure projects cost the taxpayer more than they should.

“While the UK needs to invest more in infrastructure, investments must be made wisely. Picking the most cost-effective options at every stage – from project selection to finance option – is critical.”

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