Treasury and transport are the focus as ACE meets new Government

Nelson Ogunshakin, ACE

ACE is building links with ministers and officials ahead of the next National Infrastructure Plan. Chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin reports in on recent meetings. 

In political terms July is normally a busier than usual month, with a slew of announcements rushed out before parliament rises and extra meetings to ensure ministers, officials, and MPs do not forget you over the summer. What with the Chancellor’s emergency Budget as well as the fallout from the general election still being analysed, this July has proven to be busier still.

ACE has been involved in meeting with the likes of the new commercial secretary to the Treasury Lord Jim O’Neill and the minister of state for transport Robert Goodwill. Both were keen to meet and discuss the government’s plans for the next five years, on the whole stressing the commitment to the plans already set out prior to the general election. 

“I expect NIPSEF will continue, but modified to align with new Government priorities” - Ogunshakin 

Lord O’Neill’s role in this is particularly relevant, being as he is the key government minister with responsibility for the National Infrastructure Plan. I am happy to be able to report back that he recognises the value of the NIP and will be working to ensure its continuation as a living document that provides the strategy underpinning the UK’s drive to deliver the infrastructure it requires.

His focus will be on three areas. Firstly, how infrastructure can play its part in enabling the Northern Powerhouse, the landmark project at the heart of the Chancellor’s vision for rebalancing the UK economy. Secondly, the improvements to UK productivity that can be made through the provision of better infrastructure. Finally, how the UK can use infrastructure projects in the pipeline to present itself as an attractive destination for foreign investment from the likes of China.

Robert Goodwill meanwhile was keen to discover how we might work together to improve engagement between the industry and government. He recognises the importance of this as we seek to deliver the first Roads Investment Strategy which the last government published in December 2014. Without collaboration as equals the plan will not become a reality.

All of this means that ACE will be very busy over the summer months. While everyone else is away, enjoying the sunshine (we hope!), travelling to far flung destinations, or watching England and Australia battle it out for the Ashes, we will be building on the discussions we have had with the new and returning ministers.

Meetings with civil servants, and in particular Infrastructure UK, to discuss the future shape and direction of the NIP are already being set up and a major part of that will obviously be how industry can engage to ensure it is as relevant to them as possible. The role of the National Infrastructure Plan Strategic Engagement Forum will form a significant part of this conversation, and I expect it will continue, but modified to align with new Government priorities, and build on the successes it enjoyed during the last parliament.

The prospect of engagement through roundtables is also being actively explored, and all those ministers that ACE has met so far have been keen on the idea, recognising the benefits of meeting directly with members, hearing their concerns, and outlining government policies. Again, we will be contacting the offices of those concerned and arranging convenient times for such meetings which we will advertise in due course. 

“The commercial secretary to the Treasury recognises the value of the NIP and will be working to ensure its continuation as a living document” 

All this paints a positive picture for the industry over the coming months. We have not had it all our own way, with the announcement of the abolition of the post of chief construction adviser, and the changes to the Construction Leadership Council, both of which give ACE cause for concern. Our best hope of influencing these, however, is to remain at the table, discussing with government, offering constructive criticism, rather than petulantly walking away.

That is the approach that ACE will be taking in its dealings with government, and the one we will be advocating the wider industry pursue. It will not go all our own way, but we have the best chance of getting the most from government by engaging positively.

Finally, over the Summer ACE will also be working to complete its work on the EU referendum and diversity and inclusion ready for official launches. In addition, ACE recognises the challenges faced by its members operating in the Middle East and is campaigning to secure nomination for Gavin English on the FIDIC Executive Committee, and also take a proactive role in the delivery of the FIDIC Global Infrastructure Conference in Dubai - all ACE members are encouraged to participate in the debate.

I hope all of our industry will think on all of this over the summer, and come back refreshed and ready to work. Have a good break!