Back in 1997, the incoming Labour government inherited an awful legacy from the Thatcher and Major Conservative governments. Our infrastructure was collapsing. School and hospital buildings were falling apart, and roads and railways were crumbling. It required a huge commitment of public investment to begin to put things right.
Since the arrival of the current Coalition government in 2010, it has cut capital infrastructure investment by £5.6bn. It’s little wonder that construction industry orders and output have reduced dramatically and that there are 84.000 fewer construction workers in jobs than 3 years ago.
Both the CBI and the TUC have been consistent in arguing for capital investment. As the CBI said “our creaking infrastructure still lags behind other countries and we cannot afford further delays in getting spades in the ground.”
Anyone listening to Cameron and Osborne might have thought they’d listened and got the message as, last week, they launched ‘the most comprehensive, ambitious and long-lasting capital investment plans’.
The truth is disturbingly different.
- In May 2011, having slashed the existing school building programme, the government promised 261 schools will be rebuilt. Today, construction has started on just one (1);
- Last September, the government announced a plan to get £20bn of pension fund investment in infrastructure. Today, just £1bn has been committed;
- Last year, the government promised that ‘tens of thousands of households’ would have signed up to the Green Deal. Today, just four (4) households have signed;
- In 2015, we will actually be spending £10 billion less on infrastructure than we spent in 2010, and it is to be cut in each successive year
- Investment in the government funded construction pipeline is set to fall by almost a quarter (23 per cent) over the four years from 2011-12 to 2014-15
Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has admitted that “the gap between intention, announcement and delivery is quite significant”. Do you know what? I agree with Nick. But what seems to be escaping his notice is that it is Nick who is making the announcements and failing in the delivery.