CBI, Turner & Townsend urge UK infrastructure overhaul

By Dan Colombini17 November 2021

Transferring oversight of the National Infrastructure Pipeline to the UK Infrastructure Bank and the creation of a new ‘projects playbook’ would significantly boost the delivery of new projects, according to a new report by the CBI and consultancy Turner & Townsend.

The CBI and Turner & Townsend have published a report urging greater collaboration between the government and the industry to deliver a host of changes to UK infrastructure. Image courtesy Adobe Stock

Programmes with Purpose: delivering success in Government’s major projects sets out a series of recommendations to improve the delivery of the government’s Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP) across a range of critical sectors including transport, utilities and defence.

The report recommends transferring oversight of the National Infrastructure Pipeline to the UK Infrastructure Bank; simplifying decision-making and prioritisation. 

IPA and the Cabinet Office
To strengthen governance and accountability, the IPA and Cabinet Office, with insights from leading private sector partners, should explore what incentives could help reduce churn among people leading major projects, according to the report.

Another key recommendation is for the IPA to work with the Cabinet Office to publish a Major Projects Playbook, setting out expectations and best practice on projects delivering social value, meeting carbon commitments and embedding export potential as a key benchmark of project success. 

With nearly three quarters of major projects currently falling behind on expectations, the report includes a range of recommendations to achieve successful delivery on flagship government policies. These include:

  • Creation of specialist project teams to enhance delivery
  • Standard carbon emissions measurement across projects
  • Establishing export potential of innovation and expertise working through DIT
  • Incentivise longer tenures for senior civil servants and business leaders on major projects

The objective behind the playbook should be to break down siloes that exist between different areas of sector specialism, helping to establish a connected major projects ‘industry, the report said.

UK government net zero plans
Matthew Fell, CBI chief policy director, said: “If levelling up and net zero are to become a reality, successfully delivering major projects right across the country must become the norm rather than the exception.

“A brief examination of the government’s own statistics reveals the scope for significant improvements across all areas of delivery. Beefing up the role of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority will enable it to directly inject greater expertise into major projects, supporting both clients and suppliers. Elsewhere, churn of major project leaders in both the public and private sectors has dogged delivery for years, so we need to find a way to reduce the loss of institutional knowledge.

“And post-COP26, the need for action on carbon emissions in major projects could not be clearer.”

David Whysall, managing director of UK Infrastructure, Turner & Townsend, said: “The strength of the UK’s pipeline for government-backed major projects creates a once in a generation opportunity to address regional inequalities and decarbonise our economy – not only in terms of what they achieve, but how they are brought forward.  Whether working on transport programmes, defence capability, social infrastructure, technology or manufacturing, the delivery and execution needs to be world leading.  

“The fact remains that as an industry we are not connected and not performing either consistently or frequently at this level.  Amazing expertise already exists within individual programmes and sectors, but we need to capture and scale it.  We have also seen transformative steps taken through initiatives including the Construction Playbook, IPA Routemap, Value Toolkit and CO2nstructZero.  We now need the Government to show leadership through consolidating these achievements and acting on the recommendations in our report to establish a globally leading, exportable major projects industry.”

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