Putting construction at the heart of a modern industrial strategy for the UK

Mace has launched an Infrastructure Charter, which sets out a four-point plan to make better infrastructure a core and urgent part of the Government's much needed Industrial Strategy.

We already do some things incredibly well in the UK and we should be proud of them, talk about them more (and complain less). But we can still do things better.

This internal four-point ‘fitness training programme’ will help the UK become ‘match fit’ and should be an absolute priority for government. Our comparatively poor infrastructure, by global standards, is holding Britain back as an attractive place to invest, limiting business potential and most damagingly, is restricting the growth of regional economies.

We simply will not be able to develop a successful industrial strategy or make a real success after exiting the EU, if growth between our regional economies remains so unbalanced. To help develop thinking on how to tackle this challenge, our consultancy and construction experts have produced an infrastructure charter: a collection of four simple but essential policies that are needed to help kick-start the UK’s post-EU industrial renaissance.

1. Giving the UK a competitive advantage by investing in research and development (R&D)

The construction sector has lagged behind other sectors of the economy in innovation and productivity. As we exit the EU, we will need this sector more than ever – to build the infrastructure and new homes essential for making the UK an attractive place to invest. In recognition of this crucial role, and the historical sector-wide under investment in R&D, we believe two clear policies are needed - innovation incentives and tackling poor take-up.

2. Mayor-led infrastructure enterprise zones

The devolution agenda should help efforts to rebalance our economy, since elected mayors will be given a strategic role in developing region-wide growth plans. Their powers will be negotiated with government, but typically appear to be focused on housing, planning and skills, with London and Manchester also taking public service powers. We believe mayors should be given more specific economic powers, but to ensure effectiveness in areas where there is a proven case that local economic management leads to definite economic benefits.

3. Drawing and keeping talent in the north

If the Government is to succeed in its aim of rebalancing our regional economies and making a success of Brexit, then the high levels of brain drain that stifle economic development in the north of England need to be tackled as an urgent priority. Infrastructure projects based in the North will be of some help in retaining talent, but we call on government to use its huge workforce planning power to do more to help retain northern graduates in the region. Government should set up, in a northern city, such as Manchester or Leeds, a National Civil Service Fast-Stream College, which would be a focal point for northern (and other) graduates, and others with technical skills, to begin a career in the senior civil service.

4. Devolved transport delivery bodies

London’s world-renowned public transport network is a direct result of power being handed to the mayor. This model has been replicated in some degree with Transport for the North, but we believe that body needs greater independent power and the model should be replicated in every major region. Transport for the North is seeking independent statutory status to become England’s first sub-national transport body. We support this move, and believe this must happen as soon as possible – to put the organisation in a better position to develop the transport improvements needed to transform the north’s economy.

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