Govt infrastructure plan welcomed by Business West – but it calls for action, not words

June 28, 2013

The region’s leading business organisation last night called on the Government to back up its promises on key infrastructure investment projects with action.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander announced modernisation plans worth £100bn spanning homes, roads, rail, energy and flood protection.

Projects in the West include electrification of the Great Western mainline between Bristol and London, a capacity upgrade at Bristol Temple Meads railway station, a rail link from the Great Western mainline to Heathrow Airport and the Hinkley C nuclear power station in Somerset.

The region will also benefit from money for local economic development schemes to be paid through the LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships).

Mr Alexander described it as “the most comprehensive, long-lasting investment programme the country has seen”. But critics said most of the commitments had been previously announced and there was no new money.

Phil Smith, managing director of Business West, which runs Bath Chamber of Commerce, said: “As always with Government announcements the devil is in the detail and the Spending Review announcements of extra money for growth are no different. Today, from Danny Alexander, we got the detail and much of it is to be welcomed. This was a very high-profile statement of intent on key transport, housing and energy projects which will give both businesses and investors greater confidence in the government’s commitment to improve UK infrastructure. This commitment must now be translated into action on the ground, and quickly.

“Infrastructure projects are too often promised and too rarely delivered in this country, and that cycle must be broken. If these announcements are to translate into short-term confidence, medium-term construction jobs and long-term competitiveness, the Whitehall machine must be judged by the number of diggers on the ground, not strategies and press notices.

“The announcement on the Single Local Growth Fund is to be welcomed.  With additional funding decisions now to be taken at local level, this is potentially a big boost to business and local economies. Business leaders and Local Councils, together through their LEPs, now need to embrace the pro-growth agenda and prove to government that we are best placed to deliver and can do it better than them.”

Business West’s responses to individual sections of the report were:


The Government’s commitment to build 165,000 new affordable homes responds directly to business’s long-standing call for direct house-building, but we need it to start now not a couple of years down the line. Housebuilding creates local jobs, boosts local supply chains, and boosts business confidence. So while the Government’s intent is positive, and provides greater certainty, it needs to move faster.”

 Road maintenance:

Business has been calling for a major boost to road maintenance for some time so it is pleasing to see government has finally responded. The allocation of £6bn to maintain local roads and £4bn for strategic roads will be cheered by businesses across the country. However, we would have liked to see this funding available earlier than 2015, as road maintenance schemes can get underway quickly and build confidence and is much needed.

Road schemes:

The majority of the new road schemes and improvements as usual do not benefit the South West but it is at least good to see the A303 (through Wiltshire and Somerset) included as this is the biggest priority for business across the South West.

High speed rail and rail electrification:

Business West has called for action on electrification of the Great Western mainline for many years and we are pleased to see it once more mentioned in government plans.  However, we have heard it all before; we now need to see some visible construction on the ground across the UK.

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