EEF wants independent body to oversee infrastructure

MANUFACTURERS are calling for a permanent infrastructure authority to push through vital investment to support growth and competitiveness.

The industry group EEF says the creation of an independent body would end decades of political wrangling and poor planning.

Its call comes amid continued concerns over the country’s road and energy infrastructure, along with continued uncertainty over expanding airport capacity, which is a critical factor for half of foreign-owned firms when deciding where to invest according to the EEF’s research.

Other surveys on manufacturing investment also showed that quality of infrastructure was the fourth most critical factor for manufacturers in deciding where to invest, behind proximity to customers, labour costs and availability of skills.

EEF business environment policy adviser Chris Richards said: “Political prevarication and policy reversals have left Britain in the slow lane in developing its infrastructure for decades. The neglect of our roads, the indecision on expanding airport capacity and, the agonising over high speed rail routes connecting our major cities have only served to exacerbate the feeling that Britain’s infrastructure is not geared up to support growth.

“We now have the opportunity to put in place a new independent system that will aid long-term planning supporting more of a consensus based approach in identifying future needs. All political parties need to commit to this in their forthcoming manifestos.”

He added: “In a nutshell, a UK Infrastructure Authority would add value by horizon-scanning for future challenges, and ensuring debates are backed by trusted analysis.”

In his speech to the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce annual dinner this year Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said a Labour government would set up such a body.

The recent EEF survey on transport revealed that:

:: Four-fifths of manufacturers identify the road network as critical to their business.

:: Half of manufacturers say that the state of the UK’s roads significantly increases their operating costs.

:: Three-quarters of export-intensive manufacturers identify aviation infrastructure as important to identifying new business opportunities.

:: Half of foreign-owned manufacturing businesses say aviation is a key factor in deciding where to invest.

:: Two-thirds of export-intensive manufacturers identify investment in road access to international gateways, such as ports, as critical to their growth.

:: A third of the most export-intensive firms say the state of the UK’s port infrastructure has significantly increased their operating costs.