Government accused of ‘failure of ambition’ on infrastructure

Labour has attacked the Government for the length of time it is taking to get major infrastructure projects off the ground.

Opposition MPs published figures yesterday showing that in Yorkshire, just one of the 20 schemes listed in the Government’s ‘infrastructure pipeline’ – an upgrade of part of the A1 – has been completed since the General Election of May 2010.

Many of the others, which include road schemes, waste plants and energy projects, have not yet got underway.

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Nationally, only seven of the 576 projects are classed by the Treasury as ‘completed’ or ‘operational’.

Rachel Reeves, the MP for Leeds West and Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “The Government’s record on infrastructure is one of failure of ambition and failure of delivery.”

She said even the improvement to the A1 was only “half a job”, as Chancellor George Osborne cancelled plans to extend the upgrade in 2010. The project finally got the green light in December.

Speaking in the Commons during an Opposition debate on infrastructure, Ms Reeves said: “With every project delay, every investor put off and every job lost in the construction sector, we lose ground to our global competitors.

“With the economy flatlining and no growth over the past year, the case for action is irrefutable.

“We need to bring forward public investment, create hundreds of thousands of jobs and get the construction industry moving again.”

But Ministers said Labour must take its share of the blame for the state of Britain’s infrastructure.

Treasury Minister Greg Clark told MPs: “By their very nature, major infrastructure projects must be planned years in advance, capital spending budgets allocated years in advance, and private sector investment secured years in advance.

“All those things require a Government who can look ahead, anticipate the needs of the future, and make the necessary decisions in a timely fashion.

“After 13 years of the Labour Government our roads were more congested, our railways were creaking, house building was at its lowest level since the 1920s, and electricity customers were facing black-outs for the first time since before the war.”