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12 May, 2017 - 23:05 By Kate Sweeney

Infrastructure could deliver £23.2bn for region via higher productivity gains

CBI Tunnicliffe

Improvements in regional infrastructure will help boost productivity and give England’s regions the chance to improve links with international markets, according to a new CBI report.

Shaping Regional Infrastructure, a report drawing on conversations with members of the UK’s largest business group, Unlocking Regional Growth and the 2016 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey, demonstrates the pressing need felt by businesses to enhance their infrastructure and connectivity across the country.

Improving the links between regions will give firms access to a broader labour market pool and better connections to supply chains.

Also, with businesses across the country wanting a long term aviation strategy that makes the best use of regional airports, better links to these are vital to connecting firms with new and existing international markets to which to export – particularly important post-Brexit.

CBI analysis shows that if the East of England’s productivity grew at the same pace as the region’s best performing area did between 2004 and 2014, the gain to its economy could be £23.2 billion by 2024.

Improvements to infrastructure could play an important role in this. With 94 per cent of firms also seeing technology as a crucial driver of increased productivity, its better and greater use will improve infrastructure delivery.

In the East of England, where 37 per cent of firms are dissatisfied with the state of their infrastructure, and 34 per cent believe further devolution would improve it, two significant priorities emerged. They were:-

  • Enhanced rail connections with London and the South East
  • A coherent agenda and narrative for infrastructure planning and delivery
  • Improved access to international markets – with easier and faster connections to Stansted Airport

Richard Tunnicliffe, CBI East of England director, said: “England’s infrastructure is the arteries and veins without which the country its economy and businesses function. But with a third of East of England firms dissatisfied with the state of our region’s roads, rails and ports, it’s vital the pace of taking action and delivering improvements is stepped up.

“Infrastructure is a key driver of productivity. By making it easier for staff to get to work and by better connecting companies to their customers, markets overseas and supply chains, we could do a great deal to lift England’s productivity.

“Moreover, ramping up trade with international partners – old, new and in all corners of the world – will be crucial to making a success of Brexit. This makes it doubly important to better connect firms to these markets, particularly through the Government’s commitment to a long-term aviation strategy and giving our regional airports a new lease of life.

“A strategic plan for delivery, tailored for each region, will also be needed for firms to feel devolution will truly make a difference when it comes to infrastructure.”

Firms want to see a more joined up approach to delivery across the different types of infrastructure, from housing to energy to transport, as well as strategic regional plans with a clear idea of where decisions will be made.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Richard Tunnicliffe, CBI East of England director

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