UK infrastructure boost planned through raising billions selling public assets


Billions of pounds will be raised by selling off public assets to help fund projects to improve the UK's critical infrastructure under plans being set out by George Osborne.

The Chancellor has committed to £100 billion of infrastructure investment by 2020, vowing to put it at the heart of a spending review aimed at "delivering security".

Mr Osborne's comments came ahead of the formal launch of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) he established under the chairmanship of former Labour cabinet minister Lord Adonis.

A "suite of asset sales" which the Treasury expects to raise billions of pounds is being identified by officials, with details expected to be announced at the spending review on November 25.

The infrastructure spending commitment will include confirmation of £15 billion for road projects set out in December last year. 

Mr Osborne said: "My spending review will be about delivering security.

"British people have to spend longer than they should getting to work, pay more than they should in energy bills and can't buy the houses they want because of the failure of successive governments to think long-term.

"Infrastructure isn't some obscure concept - it's about people's lives, economic security and the sort of country we want to live in. That's why I am determined to shake Britain out of its inertia on infrastructure and end the situation where we trail our rivals when it comes to building everything from the housing to the power stations that our children will need.

"This is about jobs, growth, living standards and ensuring Britain is fit for the future. We must be the builders. At the Spending Review, I will commit to investing £100 billion in infrastructure over the next five years and we are creating an independent commission to give us a long-term, unbiased analysis of the country's major infrastructure needs.

"We need to think long-term and deliver a cross-party consensus on what we need to build. I am delighted Andrew Adonis and this world-class group of experts have agreed to come together on the National Infrastructure Commission to help us do that."

The announcement of the NIC during the Conservative Party conference, and the appointment of Lord Adonis to chair it, raised eyebrows among Labour MPs after their party had promised a similar body. 

The membership of the commission, announced today, includes former Olympic Delivery Authority boss Sir John Armitt, who led an independent review of infrastructure for Labour.

Other commissioners include Tory former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine, who led a review on economic growth for the coalition government, former Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee member professor Tim Besley, artificial intelligence expert Demis Hassabis, architect Sadie Morgan, economist Bridget Rosewell and Victoria & Albert Museum chairman Sir Paul Ruddock.  

The commission's initial focus will include work on improving connectivity in northern England - a key part of the Chancellor's Northern Powerhouse agenda.

Other priorities include London's transport systems, including the proposed Crossrail 2, and energy infrastructure.

The commission will be formally launched in an event at the National Railway Museum in York attended by Lord Adonis and the Chancellor.

Lord Adonis said: "For Britain to get on with the job of delivering high-quality infrastructure that benefits everyone, you need more than just a commitment to invest - you need long term forward plans and the maximum possible consensus.

"That is what the National Infrastructure Commission is here to promote."

The launch of the commission comes after business leaders demanded action to improve the country's ageing infrastructure.

They called for urgent action to tackle the UK's "creaking" railways, "clogged" roads and "crowded" airport runways.

A study by the CBI showed that most firms are worried about how quickly infrastructure projects are being delivered.

Director-general John Cridland said the arteries of modern Britain were "working overtime".