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Infrastructure blog

General Election 2019 delivers a new Conservative Government for the UK

13 December 2019

The snap general election is done and dusted, with the Conservative Party winning with a clear majority. Here, we take an early look at the implications of the result for the UK’s infrastructure sector.

General Election 2019 delivers a new Conservative Government for the UK
During the election, ICE clearly set out the three things we wanted to see from any new government. Image credit: Shutterstock

After weeks of campaigning by political parties across the UK, the votes have been counted and checked. The outcome: A Conservative Government with 365 seats and a majority of 80*. Their nearest rivals, Labour, now have 203 MPs, while in Scotland there was a resurgence of the SNP taking them back towards the levels of dominance last seen in 2015.

Whilst it’s clear Brexit was one of the biggest issues during this election, on a more domestic agenda we saw all parties promising huge increases in infrastructure spending. In their manifesto, launched last month, the Conservatives committed to an additional £80bn in capital spending over the next four years, increasing to £100bn over a full five-year term.

Within this, they set out specific plans, including £500 million a year over four years to fill potholes. Elsewhere they pledged to invest £4bn on new flood defences and £5bn to support broadband rollout in areas which are considered as less commercially viable.

On transport there were commitments to invest in the Midlands Rail Hub and Northern Powerhouse Rail. One thing that industry and the public will be watching closely is the Government’s decision on the future of HS2, following the Oakervee review. The announcement, expected in the autumn, was postponed due to the election. There will be pressure on the Government to quickly clarify the future of this major projector set out an alternative approach that meets the need for enhanced capacity, regional development and carbon reduction.

What happens next?

The Conservatives have already set out that they intend to hold a Queen’s Speech next Thursday (19 Dec). Whilst we expect to see many of the same Bills that were published in October, with such a strong majority in Parliament there might be some new additions.

During the election, ICE clearly set out the three things we wanted to see from any new government. This included a bold approach to deliver on the legislated net-zero by 2050 greenhouse gas target and a focus on improving the delivery of infrastructure projects, as well as increasing productivity across the built environment sector.

A further priority for the country is the publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy. This was one area where the Conservative manifesto was surprisingly short on detail given how central it was to their agenda this autumn, with little mention beyond the aforementioned investment in potholes.

It’s now time for action

Investment in infrastructure is critical, but a robust strategy to direct this is equally as important. As our Director General Nick Baveystock said earlier today, ”it takes times to deliver good infrastructure and we will need it whatever Brexit deal is eventually done. The National Infrastructure Commission has delivered a ready-to-bake assessment so we should get on. The Government’s strategy for the UK should match international best practice, and absolutely avoid setting out a list of dis-jointed projects and programmes.”

So, with the start of the new Parliament next week, the time for talking is over. If the Government can fulfil the challenges we have set out for them, we have a chance to build a vibrant, sustainable economy that will drive economic growth and raise living standards across the UK.

  • Vanessa Furey, head of external affairs at Institution of Civil Engineers