BRITAIN must rebuild its infrastructure to put an end to its “make-do and mend” culture, a leading business organisation has urged George Osborne ahead of his emergency Budget next week.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) submission to the Chancellor published today claims that a lack of investment in infrastructure capacity and maintenance across transport, energy and digital is hobbling business growth and costing jobs.
“Britain has relied on a make-do and mend approach for far too long, but this is simply not acceptable,” John Longworth, the BCC’s director general, said.
“While our competitors across the world are making serious, sustained investment towards infrastructure, in many cases we rely on patched up systems built in the 1970s.
“It is for this reason we languish so far down the international league table for quality of infrastructure, as well as investment.”
The BCC notes that Britain ranks 27th in the World Economic Forums’ quality of overall infrastructure table, and that the UK national infrastructure plan has identified 650 projects needed in the next 15 years.
The BCC, which speaks for business organisations of all sizes, said the country needed to be in the top 15 by 2000 if it was to achieve the government’s target become the richest country in the G7, per capita, by 2030.
Among proposals made by the organisation to the Chancellor are that there is a “complete review and reform” of the compulsory purchase process by 2017-18; rapid action “to green-light new aviation capacity” following the imminent publication of the Airports Commission’s final report and recommendation on a new runway for either Gatwick or Heathrow; remove investment relating to the delivery of the national infrastructure plan from the national debt target.
The BCC said: “Business people across the UK are concerned that government spending remains too focused on areas of short-term economic benefit and political convenience, instead of on assets that have a lasting economic benefit.”
It added that government should concentrate more on infrastructure measures that are capable of boosting productivity.
Longworth said: “The UK must get to grips with a huge investment challenge over the next decade – ageing road, rail and energy networks need upgrading and replacing, and more houses need to be built to meet demand.”
He said businesses supported the government’s mending of the public finances, “but it must be achieved without detriment to growth”.