The latest in a series of policy papers from Balfour Beatty’s reinvigorated public affairs department makes the case for investment in smaller scale projects that are ready to start and that deliver economic benefit more quickly than mega projects such as HS2 and nuclear power stations.
“Balfour Beatty’s view is that the government could take advantage of the current ultra-low government borrowing costs to finance spending on infrastructure, such as roads, railways, schools and hospitals. We believe that this should be spent on the kind of local infrastructure spending that would result in economic activity nationwide, ideally on ‘shovel ready’ projects that can demonstrate they will deliver homes and jobs over the next four or five years,” says its report, Small scale, big impact.
“Mega infrastructure projects, for example, High Speed 2 or the Thames Tideway Tunnel, take time to plan and administer. Any positive benefits to companies and the economy more broadly from, for example, deciding to build a new bridge, motorway or flood asset tend not to be seen for many years. However, smaller and medium sized projects, such as rail schemes, bypasses, road maintenance and housing developments can have a significant short-term impact in terms of jobs and real spending.”
Balfour Beatty appears to be supporting arguments set down by Dr Atif Ansar and Professor Bent Flyvbjerg from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, whose recent paper, Big is fragile, explained how smaller projects can offer better value and less risk than bigger projects. [See our previous article here: Does big mean better?]
Balfour Beatty says that the UK also needs investment in small projects to prepare the workforce for larger projects ahead. “Companies such as Balfour Beatty use more modest sized schemes to recruit and train skilled workers in the short term so the expertise is available for mega projects tomorrow. This approach will become increasingly relevant as we move towards Brexit, as our ability to rely on EU nationals is uncertain,” its report says.
Small scale, big impact is the latest in a series of papers produced by Balfour Beatty head of public affairs Veena Hudson, who joined the company in July 2015 having previously been a senior special adviser to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. Her previous papers for Balfour Beatty include Innovation for the Future – Better Delivery of Mega Projects and Infrastructure 2050 - Future Infrastructure Need.