Invest in the UK’s infrastructure to boost business confidence and local growth

9th May 2017

Investment in infrastructure is crucial to the success of local economies, but ask anyone who spends time on congested roads or overcrowded trains in the UK, and they’d probably argue that the delivery of infrastructure projects lags too far behind demand.

The same could be said for those who suffer from unreliable internet connections and mobile coverage, who await much-needed upgrades to the UK’s digital infrastructure.

For too long, successive governments have delayed making tough decisions on infrastructure projects for fear of political fallouts – so instead they got kicked into the long grass, and plans were delayed again and again.

That said, when the current government was formed, it came out of the blocks strong on this front, making a number of long-awaited announcements on major infrastructure projects in their first few weeks and months in office – including HS2, Hinkley and Heathrow.

Just last month a decision on the Lower Thames Crossing was finally announced, a prime example of a project which will reduce congestion in local areas and creates links for local businesses to reach markets, labour and customers.

It’s clear that the positive effects of investing in infrastructure go beyond the physical connections created, and can be found in increased business confidence in local communities and job opportunities for the construction industry and its supply chains.

But the fear now is, having waited so long for many of these decisions to be made, businesses will have to wait longer again before they see action. Until diggers actually break ground and construction begins, local communities don’t reap the benefit, so the next government must make the delivery of these projects a top priority.

So too must be the development of a long-term energy security strategy, which maximises the output from our domestic sources of oil and gas, nuclear and renewable providers. The UK should be striving to improve its energy efficiency, without hammering energy-intensive industries with taxes and costs that make them globally uncompetitive.

Of course, when speaking about infrastructure, the physical projects are only half of the equation. Digital is the other crucial component. If the UK is to remain a competitive and globalised economy, there is a lot of work to be done on improving our digital infrastructure.

The UK should be a digital world leader, yet 18% of our businesses don’t have a reliable internet connection. Far too many rural businesses can’t connect to the internet or get coverage on their phones when they need to, and even in our cities, modern and developed as they are, business people can’t get the coverage they need to make calls. This is not good enough.

If we are to be competitive economy in a post-Brexit world these are the fundamental issues which need to be rectified. Even a great trade deal with the European Union would be of little benefit if UK businesses can’t connect with labour, customers and supply chains.

Business communities are calling on the next government to ensure that Brexit doesn’t absorb all their attention when there is so much to be done at home. Investment and action on infrastructure projects is a prime example of a deliverable which will reap countless benefits including boosting business confidence, investment and growth. Surely a no-brainer?

Orla Hennessy

Communications Officer, British Chambers of Commerce

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