Spending Review: ‘Delivery on promises and plans is vital,' says MPA
Mineral Products Association calls for an end to ‘dither and delay’ on delivery of major projects
THE Mineral Products Association (MPA) has cautiously welcomed the Chancellor’s announcements in today’s Spending Review but stressed that delivery is vital.
Among the announcements, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak (pictured), outlined how the Government would deliver the next stages of its record investment plans in infrastructure with £100 billion of capital spending next year for schools, hospitals, housing and transport schemes, as well as a £4 billion ‘levelling-up’ fund for local infrastructure.
These will be supported by a new National Infrastructure Strategy outlining the Government’s long-term vision for infrastructure investment, and a new UK infrastructure bank – headquartered in the north of England – to work with the private sector to finance major new investment projects across the UK.
The key announcements for MPA members included investment in roads and rail, and longer-term spending on bringing forward carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), nuclear and hydrogen, all of which provide a pipeline of demand and support the mineral products industry’s transition to net zero.
However, the MPA says experience over recent years of ambitions not being met has tempered its confidence in the plans announced today. It says improving delivery is vital, and the new National Infrastructure Strategy sets out welcome reforms to help achieve this, with changes to environmental regulations and the planning system.
Responding to the Chancellor’s Spending Review, Nigel Jackson, chief executive of the MPA, said: ‘Increased ambition from the Government on new, better and improved infrastructure is always welcome, but it is the realization of those ambitions, evidenced with actual delivery on the ground, that will be crucial and the true measure of success. We welcome the plans to improve delivery and will keep pressing the Government to ensure they come to fruition.
‘As the Government itself recognizes, the country needs to build itself back to strengthen the recovery from the economic impact of COVID-19. Our industry is essential to this process and, unfortunately, we have seen dithering and delay on the delivery of major projects and infrastructure for far too long.
‘Government plans have to be credible and deliverable or they simply won’t be worth the paper they are written on; we will be scrutinizing the details following today’s statement with keen interest.
‘In our submission to the Treasury, ahead of today’s announcement, we called for a focus on delivery on infrastructure and we are glad to see that recognized in the National Infrastructure Strategy. We also set out some of the long-term decisions needed now to support the industry achieve net zero so progress on these is welcome.’
Meanwhile, in his response the Spending Review, Rick Green, chair of the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), said: ‘Our local roads played a vital role in keeping the country functioning this year, supporting the emergency services and facilitating the distribution of food and goods, and today’s funding announcements reflect that the Government recognizes the need to invest in the local road network as we build back better.
‘While these spending commitments are welcome in these challenging times, we are aware that the sums outlined will not be enough to plug the existing multi-billion-pound backlog in road maintenance funding and so our ageing network will continue to decline.
‘What’s needed going forward is an additional investment of £1.5 billion a year for 10 years, to improve the experience of all road users, support recovery and deliver a much-needed boost to the economy.’
The Construction Products Association’s economics director, Professor Noble Francis, said: ‘As expected, the focus of this Spending Review has primarily been on aiding the recovery from the virus and furthering support for public services. Compared to strong statements from government earlier in the year around ‘build, build, build’, we have much less to go on today.
‘That said, with our forecasts showing that infrastructure will be one of the few bright spots for UK construction in the coming year, we are pleased to finally see that government has listened to the CPA and that the National Infrastructure Strategy has some of the detail we’ve long been calling for around the Government’s project plans, funding and the path to net-zero.
‘Together with the spring 2021 launch of a new National Infrastructure Bank, we have reason to be encouraged that government is taking real steps, beyond simple headlines, in delivering an infrastructure sector that truly underpins UK construction and the wider economy.’