Deterioration in some of Britain’s key infrastructure networks, such as roads and energy supplies, in the past two years has created a growth barrier for small firms across the country, according to a new study.
In its “Infrastructure Assessment 2017” report, manufacturers organisation EEF revealed which infrastructure networks its members believed were in decline, and subsequently limiting the ability of firms to meet increased business demand and reach new customers.
Minor roads were considered to have suffered most from under-investment, with around half of EEF members agreeing they had significantly declined in quality in the past two years.
A-roads and motorways were also found to be suffering, with over a third calling for urgent investment on such routes.
Meanwhile, the UK’s energy networks scored poorly, with high pricing and limited market competition driving concerns for business owners. The vast majority of EEF members ranked Britain’s energy suppliers as “poor or very poor” in terms of costs.
Only three areas of infrastructure were perceived to have improved in the past two years – international air links, intercity rail networks and domestic air links. The EEF has subsequently urged government to invest further in areas small business owners are dependent on – local transport links, low energy costs and fast broadband access.
In response to its findings, the EEF has written to newly appointed MPs in three separate select committees – Transport, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – calling for urgent inquiries into Britain’s roads and energy networks.
In a statement, Chris Richards, head of business environment policy at EEF, said: “The nation’s network of roads are acting as a barrier to business growth. While some strategic new investment is taking place, we need to speed-up efforts to improve the key routes that are the arteries companies rely on.”
In its report, the EEF detailed areas of progress within the UK’s infrastructure networks, including a three-fold increase in motorway funding and an earmarked £1bn revenue boost for primary roads. It urged government to back its Roads Fund with legislation to give certainty over funding streams.
It also called for greater energy market reform, using technology-neutral competition to give business owners access to cheaper tariffs.
“At the same time we need to see more progress on reducing the cost of energy for business,” Richards added.
“This combined with strengthening our digital infrastructure should all form part of a package to make Britain’s vital business infrastructure fit for purpose if we’re to maintain our competitive edge.
“The government can’t afford to take its eye off the ball and focus all its efforts on Brexit when there are core business priorities that need to be addressed now.”
The government has said its new £400m broadband investment fund will ensure the UK’s digital infrastructure is match-fit for the future
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