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ODA chair to lead Labour infrastructure commission

Olympic Delivery Authority chairman John Armitt has agreed to lead a new independent commission looking at delivering priority infrastructure schemes through cross-party consensus

According to the AJ’s sister publication Construction News, Armitt will examine infrastructure decision-making, planning, delivery and finance, Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls announced to the Labour Party conference yesterday.

Balls said the move was to avoid ‘repeating mistakes of the past’ and trying to build a consensus across parties, not by “chopping and changing from one government to the next”.

He said Armitt had committed to a process to examine ‘independent of government’ the case to make decisions on the long-term needs for UK infrastructure.

The move comes after the government announced last month that former CBI chief Howard Davies will chair an independent commission that will be tasked with determining the future needs and priorities for UK aviation.

Institution of Civil Engineers director general, Nick Baveystock, said: “This is welcome news and we agree it is time to stand above political fault lines and ensure infrastructure can deliver as the critical enabler to economic growth in the UK. 

“All party commitment to an infrastructure programme, with broad agreement on how to fund it, may seem politically difficult but is vital in bringing the one thing the industry needs: greater certainty. By working together, we believe all parties can minimise unnecessary change, helping to avoid delays and indecision.

CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner added: ‘Armitt will bring a wealth of industry experience to the commission, which will act to prevent infrastructure policy from becoming the political football is has been in the past. It is vital that all parties work with industry to prioritise long-term planning for growth over short-term political expediency, and to get the economy back on track.”

Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has also announced the new National Infrastructure Plan Strategic Engagement Forum which will see industry getting a direct line to the government through a new forum co-chaired between Alexander and an industry representative.

Sir John has called for the government to “get on” with crucial infrastructure decisions such as Heathrow capacity, and he told CN in August the UK risked putting itself at a disadvantage internationally with crucial decisions being delayed.

He has also been critical of the scale of the UK’s ambition on infrastructure, and told CN in July that HS2 plans were “not defendable” when compared on an international scale.

Armitt was awarded a knighthood in the New Years honours list for services to the construction industry.

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