UK infrastructure 'needs to deliver' for contractors

Friday 4 November 2016

The UK's businesses largely have a positive perception of recent improvements to the country's infrastructure, according to a new report, but don't feel confident about its future.

The 2016 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey found that 44 per cent of firms believe the UK's infrastructure will improve in the next five years. However, just 27 per cent feel confident that it will continue to improve over the next five years, and some 64 per cent believe it may actually hamper the nation's competitiveness on the world stage in the future.

As a result of the survey, the CBI and AECOM have stressed that the government needs to demonstrate how it will deliver on existing infrastructure projects, such as road and rail improvements.

Such updates will be of concern to all companies, but notably contractors and freelancers, who often rely on the country's train services and motorways to conduct and further their business. Time and money lost on such services can translate to impacted cash flow. 

It is perhaps little surprise, then, that delivery of slated projects was the top priority cited by the firms surveyed. Topping the priority list in this regard was the completion of £38 billion of investment in the rail network, which was cited by 99 per cent of respondents, and the £15 billion Road Investment Strategy that promises improvement to motorways and A-roads. 

When it comes to rail, 75 per cent of respondents noted that, for them, the most important improvement is better digital connectivity on board trains. Reliable WiFi connections can help workers be productive on the move, potentially enhancing time and cost efficiency. However, 59 per cent of those surveyed do not believe that the nation's rail infrastructure will improve over this parliament.

Commenting on the study's findings, chief executive - civil infrastructure, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa at AECOM Richard Robinson stressed the importance of the UK's infrastructure in a post-Brexit world.

"Competing more directly on the global stage requires strong foundations to secure the nation's international standing.

"Developing truly world-class national infrastructure is therefore of paramount importance," he explained, adding: "It will enable British industry to innovate, expand and flourish, strengthening the UK's reputation as a good place to do business." 

In the summer, economic adviser for the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) Lorence Nye pointed to figures of strong growth within self-employment, highlighting how important contractors will be in the coming years.

Indeed, he noted that not only do people seem increasingly keen to have control over how they work through becoming self-employed, but that firms appear to want to work with contractors and freelancers more than making permanent hires.

Attributing the latter in part to economic uncertainty in the wake of the referendum, he suggested that companies are keen to make use of the flexibility provided by self-employed workers - and that such workers will help support the economy as the nation transitions to leaving the EU.

By Victoria McDonnell

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