Eric Pickles set to unveil plans that could unleash £22bn in investment in local building projects

Eric Pickles

Communities secretary Eric Pickles is set to unveil plans to allow council pension funds to double the amount they can pump into local building projects in a move that could unleash £22bn of investment in infrastructure.

The announcement comes as the government continues to seek ways to unlock institutional investment in infrastructure.

Last month it emerged that the that the Pensions Infrastructure Platform - the vehicle set up to help deliver on chancellor George Osborne’s call for pensions to invest £20bn in infrastructure - had only managed to attract £700m in investment, which constitutes a third of the £2bn the PIP had hoped to raise in its first year.

Currently, local authority pension funds can invest a maximum of 15% in limited partnerships - the form of asset vehicle used for significant property, private equity and infrastructure projects.

But today Pickles will say that should be raised to 30%, with the government to launch a consultation on the plan.

“Unlocking Town Hall pension pots so they can be used to invest in vital infrastructure projects is a common sense decision that will help this country complete on a global scale and get Britain building,” Pickles told the Financial Times.

Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment, said: “Unlocking pension fund investment is critical to improving the UK’s infrastructure, so businesses will be heartened that Government is listening to the recommendations of the CBI and others, and taking action to lift barriers and attract new sources of funding. 

“Local Government pension funds are some of the largest in the country and many already have experience of investing in infrastructure and housing. Infrastructure projects should be a natural fit for these funds, which have very long time-horizons and are looking for a healthy investment return. Lifting restrictions should allow them to take a more prominent role in deepening pension funds’ involvement in infrastructure financing.

“But we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. More must be done to ensure we deliver a pipeline of investable projects and ensure that the real priorities – the projects of national economic significance – are given all possible support.”