UK suffering 'infrastructure drift' says Labour report

Crossrail construction site in East London There was "little evidence" that governments were planning properly for the future, Sir John said

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An independent commission should be set up "to end decades of drift and delay on major infrastructure decisions", a Labour-commissioned report has said.

Successive governments have failed to set strategic priorities, the report from Olympic Delivery Authority chairman Sir John Armitt found.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls urged the government to implement the report as quickly as possible.

But Treasury minister David Gauke said Labour had scored a "massive own goal".

Major infrastructure projects "are often controversial and politicians are rarely in office long enough to see the electoral dividends of major investment programmes", the report said.

'Victorian pioneers'

Problems surrounding the planning and implementing of schemes had affected energy policy, airport capacity, road and rail schemes and water projects, it added.

Start Quote

The Olympics showed what can be done when there is cross-party consensus and a sense of national purpose”

End Quote Ed Balls Shadow chancellor

The report went on: "The Office for National Statistics, for example, forecasts UK population will grow to over 73 million people by 2035.

"However, there is little evidence that governments are planning for the infrastructure we will need by then to support another 10 million people."

It called for the creation of an independent National Infrastructure Commission, appointed by government and opposition parties, to identify the UK's long-term infrastructure needs and monitor the plans developed by governments to meet them.

Sir John said: "We have the Victorian pioneers to thank for the infrastructure that has underpinned the quality of life for our generation.

"It is up to us to lay the ground for the next pioneers who will create the innovative systems and services that will serve future generations."

Mr Balls added: "This excellent report sets out a clear blueprint for how we can better identify, plan and deliver our infrastructure needs.

"The Olympics showed what can be done when there is cross-party consensus and a sense of national purpose.

"Now we need that same drive and spirit to plan ahead for the next 30 years and the needs of future generations."

But Treasury minister David Gauke said: "This is a massive own goal from Ed Balls."

The report was "an epitaph to Labour's failure over 13 years to address the infrastructure challenges Britain faces", he argued.

Mr Gauke concluded: "This government is clearing up the mess, creating an economy for hardworking people by investing in the biggest programme of infrastructure development since the Victorian era."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Interesting to put this report in front of all of the anti HS2 campaigners. I am not saying that HS2 is agood idea or not, but it serves a a perfect example of what happens to long term investment plans. The "Whats in it for me?" brigade kick in and oppose everything without a short term pay off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    I agree you need a increasing population, but that should be the natural birth rate for the indiginous. Also its not like we are at full employment for a start we are just importing low skills that keeps the welfare budget high because we are in a race to the bottom regarding wages.
    In your utpoia everyone will end up in serfdom as we don't have the resources nor infrastructure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    What? You mean the market is not capable of sorting this out? I am soooooo shocked.
    Where are all the bosses of the private energy, water and transport businesses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    Well the treasury minister is clearly not getting it is he? The whole point is that these projects require CROSS PARTY cooperation, and that their petty squabbles and desire to constantly one up each other like the school kids they all are is the thing that has caused the looming problem in the first place. Just grow up... all of you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    The problem with politicians of all parties is they look only to the next election, next promotion and sadly how they can feather their nest by ingratiating themselves with a business that will give them a well paid sinecure when they leave parliament.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Not exactly a shock as we see the crumbling infrastructure around us and the delays to projects which drag on for years.

    Instead we have a country happy to sit back for the last 30 years and live on Scotland's oil reserves, while around us, countries like Norway have built up massive, huge, oil funds which will keep them going for as long as we can forsee. WFI

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    The usual tory response, meanwhile we are running out of places in schools where they are needed, and the govt. funds 'free' schools in rich areas, i.e. free to promote religious and right wing views.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    231. Sage_of_Cromerarrh
    As with many issues in the world it's a matter of distribution of what we have and how we use it not how many of us there are. So before you jump of a cliff with your extended family to bring down the numbers lets try educating more woman globally as it tends to lead to a slowing of birth rates without the need for messier 'control' measures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Stats show that a third of households in Glasgow have no-one aged between 18 and 64 earning a wage. Glasgow has low immigration compared to English cities.

    If you want to limit the population to this demographic you are kidding yourself that it will make us better off.

    Who " do the maths" YOU do the maths! But do your research properly first,

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    When admiring French or Spanish infrastructure builds and public works it's worth remembering one point.

    The are able to push these projects through because they have (compared to us) draconian compulsory purchase laws. You are paid a fixed amount and told to leave!

    We have decades of public inquiries, appeals and strident media campaigns which means that we get nowhere and lawyers get rich!

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    And this comes from the party that couldnt make a decision on whether or not to build nuclear power stations!

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    If we hosted a large game, we would prepare, for e.g.
    1. Do we have enough seats
    2. Do we have enough first aid
    3. Do we have enough policing
    4. Do we have enough what ever......?
    Govt. should get it.
    Govt., STOP immigration until you have enough jobs, nurses, teachers, homes, police DO I NEED TO GO ON?

  • Comment number 244.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    After the 1828 Rainhill Trials,in 25 years,that`s TWENTY FIVE YEARS, private enterprise had covered England Scotland and Wales, not forgetting Ireland, with a comprehensive rail networt.Politicians got Beeching to "improve" the network!
    We now see HS2, planned to begin in 2030!
    Pity GB has politicians who have no idea of anything apart from Party Politics!
    Britain began the Industrial Revolution!

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    The way politics is now it's mainly about 'today' and trying to win the next election. Politicians have to realise that they are public servants who are elected to make and take decisions on behalf of the electorate which are in the best long-term interest of the country, not their political careers. The delays over London's future airport capacity being a prime example

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Instead of trying to provide for 10 million more people, why not try to avoid that many more people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Any bridge-builders here?

    Amongst mathematically-inclined - non-PPE - who doubts that ruinous corrupting 'conflict of interest' comes - inescapably - with unstable inequality of 'reward'?

    As if we must 'subsidise' those most privileged in home & education, unable to extract personal fulfilment from vocation unless obscenely 'rewarded', PPE-oblivious to opportunity cost and to democratic deficit

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Yeah, nobody can deny Labour's 13 wasted years of not correcting what was done in the 13 years before that, witness the total strategic mess of the railways and the power stations. It's a bad idea to keep qoting the Olympics: original budget £2billion, final budget £9billion. We're still paying for that now with the closures of libraries, swimming pools and playing fields which are then sold on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    This is the right course of action but more importantly Government needs to ringfence a % of GDP spending even in a recession. As soon as we get to recession spending on infrastructure is always raided. It will be tough to do as this will mean taking away from other areas but everyone uses things like road, rail and electricity and this type of spend is productive for the economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Part of the problem in this country is that people still want to live in 1955. We are capable of achieving so much, but social attitudes hold us back. Every time a new project comes along, it's met with protests, delays and red tape.

    We need to move with the times and sometimes that means going out of our comfort zone.


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