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Businesses Confident in Gov’s Commitment to Digital Infrastructure

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017 (12:01 am) - Score 280
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A CBI survey of 727 UK businesses has found that just 20% are satisfied with the Government’s effort to improve national infrastructure (energy, transport etc.) and 74% doubt it will improve by 2022, although 59% did feel confident that digital infrastructure (broadband etc.) would improve.

Apparently the lack of confidence in other areas is attributed primarily to policy inconsistency (+94%) and political risk (+86%). The digital sector is the exception, however. For the first time, this year’s survey also included the public’s views on infrastructure (1,668 adults surveyed via YouGov) and their opinions closely mirror the companies (i.e. only 26% of the public believe delivery is satisfactory and 76% doubt any improvement will occur this Parliament).

Key statistics by sector

Energy

* Setting out a post-2020 power sector investment framework is the top energy priority for the Government, with 98% of firms citing this as critical or important, followed by supporting greater innovation (90%)

* After access to skills and talent from the EU (91%), the top Brexit energy priorities are the UK’s future vis-à-vis the Internal Energy Market (86% – rising to 92% for those who were energy providers), regulatory equivalence (76%), and access to funding, such as the European Investment Bank (75%)

* Nearly three fifths (58%) of firms are not confident that energy infrastructure will improve

* Almost half (49%) of energy providers are dissatisfied with the delivery and policy environment, a rise from last year’s Survey (42%)

* All energy providers surveyed (100%) said the Government needs to set out a plan to provide a clear and long-term framework for energy policy – firms will therefore welcome the Government’s recent Clean Growth Strategy.

Transport

* Delivery of the current Road Investment Strategy is the top transport priority for the Government, with 92% of firms citing this as critical or important, followed closely by delivering improvements to local road networks (88%) and the delivery of the current rail enhancement programme, CP5 (88%)

* Regarding aviation priorities for a new relationship with the EU, 92% of businesses thought agreements between the EU and third party countries was a critical or important issue to be addressed, ahead of access to skills and talent from the EU (90%)

* Transport providers are dissatisfied across the board with infrastructure delivery and the policy environment:
Rail (61% of firms are dissatisfied)
Roads (50%)
Aviation (37% dissatisfied, but only 25% satisfied)

* A majority of firms are not confident transport infrastructure will improve:
Road (68% of firms are not confident it will improve)
Aviation (65%)
Rail (61%).

Digital

* Improving the speed and reliability of connections is the top digital priority for the Government, with 98% of firms citing this as critical or important. This is matched by the need to strengthen cyber resilience (98%) – however, over two thirds of firms (68%) are not (or not at all) confident in the UK’s current cyber security strategy

* After access to skills and talent from the EU (91%), the free flow of data (90%) and the digital single market (88%) are seen as the most important issues to address in forging a new relationship with the EU

* Digital bucks the trend when it comes to confidence in improvements, with a majority of firms (59%) feeling confident that digital infrastructure will improve.

Housing

Housing is a new sectoral addition to the 2017 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey.

* Promoting housing as an infrastructure priority is the most critical housing priority for the Government, with 90% of firms citing this as critical or important (of which 43% cite it as critical), followed by the delivery of more affordable homes (85%, of which 42% cite it as critical)

* Over four fifths (88%) of firms are not confident the Government will deliver its proposals in the 2017 Housing White Paper

* Nearly two thirds (64%) of firms are not confident that housing infrastructure will improve.

Sadly we aren’t provided with any statistics for the public’s view, at least not in respect to digital infrastructure, which would have been interesting since people are probably more tuned into the various broadband connectivity improvements than they are for other sectors.

The Government have of course been investing a lot of public money to help rollout “superfast broadband” via the Broadband Delivery UK programme and more recently they’ve been attempting to foster a new generation of ultrafast “full fibre” (FTTP/H) services, as well as pushing for a new 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO). Not to mention the various Mobile connectivity related policies and agreements.

Some of the related deployments have now been going on for a few years and as a result people often have a greater familiarity or experience of them, which might help to explain why digital infrastructure is viewed in a more positive light. By comparison transport and energy improvements tend to be a bit more gradual and gauging progress can be tricky.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:

“We’ve seen a real commitment from the Government on infrastructure over the last year, from decisions on Heathrow and the A303 to pledges to scale up the supply of housing and clean energy. But our survey shows this is not translating into optimism about future improvements among both firms and the public, who are united in their concern about the pace of delivery for new projects. We’ve now reached crunch time for the UK’s infrastructure.

As the foundation for wider growth, world-class infrastructure is fundamental in driving productivity, and helps create jobs and raise living standards. Our message is as clear as it is simple – this is no time for discussion and delays, it’s time for delivery. This needs to be heard not just by Westminster, but by local and devolved governments, as making progress on smaller, local projects is just as important as the bigger projects. Firms will not be forgiving if this focus slips.

With continuing uncertainty over Brexit, it’s all the more important the Government delivers quality infrastructure as a key pillar of a modern and effective Industrial Strategy, from excellent quality gateways to the world to a funding framework that gives investors the sustained confidence they need. It is a vital lever for spreading prosperity across the whole of the UK.

These findings must not be confused with pessimism though. Businesses have been unambiguous about what needs to happen, from delivering on the current road and rail pipelines to putting in place an urgent long-term energy plan and making housing a top priority. Firms are keen to work shoulder to shoulder with the Government, bringing their construction and funding capability, innovation and agility to the table, enabling the UK to face the future with confidence.”

On the other hand the fact that a majority of firms (59%) felt confident that digital infrastructure would improve still means 41% were rather less enthusiastic.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe

    err headline doesn’t match the content surely?

    • It does in the sense that 59% (i.e. most) businesses felt confident in digital infrastructure, which is in stark contrast to the other forms of infrastructure. Being ISPreview our focus is on the digital / connectivity side.

    • Avatar Joe

      Thats true but most of the figures/polling is biz lacking confidence in or being unhappy with X,y and z. Kinda felt like the only thing they were ok with was the headline!

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