Decisions on key infrastructure projects must be removed from politicians, says BCC

A clear majority of businesses, 62%, believe that major planning decisions would be faster and more effective if taken out of the hands of national politicians, according to a new survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). 

The responses provide strong evidence of business support for the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which has recently been established to make decisions on infrastructure schemes of national significance in order to streamline and shorten the planning process.

The BCC strongly backs the principle behind the IPC – and is appealing to the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to drop their plans to abolish the Commission, should they win the General Election. The business group argues that planning for the biggest vital infrastructure schemes should be subject to a stable, independent regime, rather than the whims of both local and national politicians.

The survey also revealed that poor transport, energy and digital communications infrastructure continue to hamper business growth. A lack of capacity is impacting on productivity, restricting the UK’s economic potential at a time when it desperately needs business to be driving recovery.

Some of the key findings in the survey, which questioned over 3,300 companies from every region, include:

Planning

  • 62% of companies believe that major planning decisions should be taken out of the hands of politicians
  • 91% of firms believe that major transport, energy and digital communication infrastructure schemes take too many years to materialise; 54% strongly agree.

Transport

  • A staggering 80% of businesses have been affected by a lack of capacity in the UK’s transport networks, primarily through a loss of man hours (64%) and increased operating costs (49%).
  • Worryingly, a fifth of companies stated that they had lost business due to inadequate transport infrastructure.

Energy

  • Greater business energy efficiency is a real silver lining to the recession - with 7 in 10 companies taking action to reduce their consumption and costs.

Digital

  • 99% of businesses stated that the Government’s commitment to universal broadband at a speed of 2mbps is not fast enough for the industries of the present or the future. 

Commenting, David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: “A country’s infrastructure is crucial to the success of its businesses. In the current environment of economic uncertainty and public spending constraints, our energy, digital, and transport networks must be up to the job if business is to deliver growth and create employment. 

“This survey suggests that the UK’s infrastructure networks are still failing to meet business needs, with serious economic consequences. Companies across the country are reporting reduced productivity, a difficulty in attracting or retaining staff, and problems in the delivery of goods and services as a result of poor infrastructure.

“For decades successive Governments have failed to adequately address business concerns on the state of the UK’s infrastructure. This has direct consequences on our ability to attract inward investment and to growing the businesses that will deliver wealth and jobs for Britain.

“Politicians from all parties would be wise to take note of the strength of business feeling on infrastructure issues - especially with a General Election around the corner.”

Posted by: Northamptonshire Chamber

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