Treasury team set up to get major projects off ground

28 Jun 13
The Treasury is to increase its scrutiny of a host of public and private sector infrastructure projects to help get the schemes under way.

By Richard Johnstone | 1 July 2013

The Treasury is to increase its scrutiny of a host of public and private sector infrastructure projects to help get the schemes under way.

The monitoring team will examine private sector projects, including Heathrow airport enhancements. Photo: Wikipedia

It is forming a Major Infrastructure Tracking team as part of Infrastructure UK to monitor 40 priority schemes across the country. Covering roads, public transport, airports, ports, energy, communications, water and sewerage schemes, these flagship developments have been defined as being ‘of national significance and critical for growth’.

The new tracking team will attempt to ensure that the schemes progress and will also examine ways to help stalled private sector developments.

IUK chief executive Geoffrey Spence said the reform was needed so the Treasury could ‘up the game in terms of tracking these projects’. More real-time information on major schemes would be provided and any ‘road blocks’ identified, he added.

Once the enhanced monitoring is in place by the autumn, IUK would have ‘the tools to intervene when projects are going wrong in a more senior level within government, and I think that’s important,’ he added.

However, only 11 of the top 40 projects are wholly public sector schemes, meaning that the government would be examining private sector developments, such as enhancement projects at both Heathrow and Gatwick airports. Investment in new energy generation capacity and improvements to ports are also part of the priority list and are private sector led.

Spence told Public Finance this monitoring would allow the Treasury to ensure developments were not being blocked by ‘indirect government action’, and steps would be taken to get involved based on individual circumstances.

He added: ‘Sometimes private sector projects are held up by planning issues, which government can help with.

‘There may be financing issues that government can help with.

‘In the public sector we pay for it one way or the other, and that gives us levers to help. With private sector projects we facilitate them in some way or another, either through the planning process or through the regulatory process indirectly.

‘What we want to be very clear about is where there is a hold-up, there is something that we could do to help.’

The news was welcomed by the Major Projects Association, which represents private sector companies developing and building infrastructure schemes.

Executive director Malcolm Noyce told PF: ‘I would be supportive of anything that tries to improve how major projects are delivered ­– and, in particular, how they can speed the process up through initiation from business case to financial support, to achieve the earliest possible start date for construction on the ground.’

'The government would also need the skills to intervene, he added. ‘I would welcome the support they can give, but they need to develop over time the experience to help bring that together.’


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