The Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan has been formally published by Welsh Government following nationwide consultation throughout March and April. The Plan sets out the Welsh Government’s strategic investment priorities, provides a detailed account of sectoral investment plans through to 2014-15 and sets out the key elements of a new approach to infrastructure investment.
The Plan is Welsh Government’s strategic response to the need to continue delivering effective infrastructure spending in light of a capital budget that has been reduced by 40%, and calls for a more transparent and collaborative approach to identifying infrastructure priorities. It is also being promoted by the Minister for Finance as a step change in approach; signalling the first time that government has shared its infrastructure vision for Wales with the private sector, public sector and third sector.
The Plan defines infrastructure in two ways: economic (physical networks that sustain and develop economic activity) and social (physical assets that sustain and develop people within Wales). Investment priorities for economic infrastructure include improvements to: transport networks; telecommunication networks; the environment; and development of the energy industry. Whilst social priorities include investment in: new housing; the health service; regeneration funding; and, education.
However, the Plan has been criticised by political opposition as simply ‘repackaging’ old announcements and failing to provide a proper vision for economic growth. While the Plan does contain previously announced investment projects and some that are even underway, it is perhaps the Plan’s approach to delivery; particularly the emphasis that is placed on the enhanced financial role of the private sector and the creation of specially designed companies to attract investment, that will be of most interest to those professions based in areas where investment will be targeted.
Experience has demonstrated that private sector investment is still constrained by the economic climate, and that the creation of an effective partnership approach between the public and private sector will require time before it begins to produce significant and lasting results. What is clear is that the Plan is an exciting initiative by Welsh Government, which will provide the framework for the practice of a new approach to delivering infrastructure projects throughout Wales.
We are currently assisting both Welsh Government and the private sector in the delivery of a number of infrastructure projects, and will be using our ongoing experience to monitor the progress of the Plan, and the effectiveness of public and private sector collaboration.