Pre-Budget report says Infrastructure UK, chaired by Paul Skinner, will look into funding for high-speed rail and low-carbon energy

The government has revealed in its pre-Budget report that it is to set up an advisory body for long-term infrastructure projects, called Infrastructure UK.

The body, to be chaired by former Rio Tinto chairman Paul Skinner, is to focus on drawing up a long-term plan to identify how to prioritise spending on infrastructure, and how to pay for it. This will be presented at the Budget in the spring.

Infrastructure UK, which will sit as an independent body in the Treasury, will combine the functions of Partnership UK, the Treasury’s PFI team, and the £2bn Treasury Infrastructure Finance Unit set up in April this year to kick-start £13bn-worth of struggling PFI schemes.

Treasury sources said TIFU, which has so far funded just one PFI scheme, will continue as before.

The new body is to look immediately at funding options for the proposed high speed rail link between London and Edinburgh, and how to fund low-carbon energy infrastructure.

It is understood the analysis of the energy market could include looking at whether the government needs to set up a “green bank” to fund low carbon projects.

The body’s remit will also extend to regulated markets such as utilities, to see if changes are needed in the regulation to make it more straightforward to attract funding for infrastructure upgrades.

Ian Pearson, economic secretary to the Treasury, said: “This body will allow a new strategic focus across a full range of infrastructure sectors. It will raise the bar in terms of how schemes are financed and delivered.”

James Stewart, currently chief executive of Partnerships UK, will be seconded as chief executive of the body.

Stewart said: “Infrastructure UK will deal with the full spectrum of infrastructure sector, from the regulated markets to the “social” sectors such as schools which are entirely government funded. One of our key targets will be to look at ways to get pension funds to invest into these markets.”

Graham Watts, chair of the Construction Industry Council, said: “This is a very welcome development. The fact we will have an expert body, looking over the government’s significant investment in infrastructure, should take a lot of the waste out of the system.”