One True Voice

“No more complaining – let’s deliver the new infrastructure the UK needs.” This is the message from Sarah Heald, director of corporate affairs & investor relations at Pennon. She says new infrastructure our sector wants to deliver will not happen unless something changes…

A clear, cross-sector voice is needed to argue the case for new public-private partnerships; and this voice needs to come up with ideas to drive private sector investment, rather than looking to the Government for the answers… it is not going to do it for us.

Ministers will not be so blunt, but they want business to come up with policies rather than expecting the Government to do the work for us. If we want to be heard; if we want to see policy and regulation change; if we want to get that framework for private investment – then we have to take a lead.

The new infrastructure that our sector wants to deliver will not happen unless something changes

The new infrastructure that our sector wants to deliver will not happen unless something changes. All of us – companies, government, local leaders – need to find a better way of working together to deliver the next generation of UK infrastructure to boost regional growth and productivity. So what can we do to form these new public-private partnerships?

Our company, Pennon, is one of the UK’s largest environmental infrastructure groups – it owns Viridor, South West Water and Bournemouth Water, with national assets of £5.9bn and a workforce of 5,000. Vital infrastructure that enables regional growth is our bread and butter.

Investment in environmental infrastructure will not take place in isolation. The UK’s productivity is well behind that of competitor nations and in our regions that gap is even greater. The French can produce the average British worker’s weekly output in just four days. To improve this situation and lay the foundations for future growth, we need to reverse decades of underinvestment in traditional infrastructure, such as road and rail, whilst simultaneously delivering new, innovative, 21st century solutions.

Government’s Focus

The good news is that the Government is focused on this too – delivering the next generation of UK infrastructure has been recognised as a priority and the creation of the National Infrastructure Commission will ensure that the country’s greatest needs for the future are identified.

The emerging Industrial Strategy has the potential to drive investment by improving coordination across Governmental departments – too often UK companies have missed out on opportunities as potential changes to regulation fall into the cracks between departments.

New and improved public-private partnerships are vital for sectors such as waste, where a new cross-department policy framework could benefit the environment, provide the resources that industry needs and create the conditions for long-term private sector investment. But we need to recognise that many of the issues we face are shared by other sectors, and therefore so are the solutions.

Recently, Pennon brought together leading figures from infrastructure businesses, government and the policy world. We heard from Bridget Rosewell OBE, the distinguished economist and Commissioner of the National Infrastructure Commission; and Tony Bray from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The table buzzed with ideas on how private investment could be boosted – but there was a theme: the need for a single, clear voice for “infrastructure UK”.

This cross-sector voice is coming together – it will bring forward policies for new public-private partnerships to drive regional growth and productivity as we leave the EU, not call for the Government to come up with solutions. I am urging everyone in the waste sector and beyond to join us in making the case for enabling more private investment – with higher productivity, everyone in the UK wins – so please get in touch.

Please send your feedback to corporateaffairs@pennon-group.co.uk

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  1. I am not sure blaming the stereotypical British worker has anything to do with the problems of the debt ladened procurement system loaded with excessive interest rates (anecdotally described as milking the developer – remember the scandal of the banks rigging the rates and paying themselves excessive bonus’s). Always easy to blame the workers for loss of profits. The collapse of the Manchester PFI – as a major partner, not Viridor’s greatest hour. Austerity is a great leveler. The PFI/PPP bubble is bursting and the Government/ Developers/ Contractors need urgently to change the public procurement models and the business models of the developers to reflect reality and undo the greed, aspirations and expectations in the board rooms for ever increasing profits in the global rat race that is known as “the race to the bottom”.

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