Call comes just a day after huge M4 improvements job in south Wales was pulled

John Armitt

The man in charge of the National Infrastructure Commission has said his top priority is that he is listened to rather than given statutory powers, telling ministers to have consistency in their planning. 

Sir John Armitt, who chairs the NIC, said that “ideally” the NIC would be a statutory body but credibility and being listened to are more important.

Speaking to Building he said: “So as long as that is the situation, then whether I am statutory or not is frankly of secondary importance to being listened to and action taken.

“We want a commitment to some strategic policies in infrastructure and knowing that government is going to establish some budgets in a more long term way and they are not going to be chopped and changed all the time that gives a much more certain background for people to plan projects.”

Armitt also said faster decision making was “less important than the need for consistency or for decisions once made not to then be placed into doubt by people constantly debating have we made the right decision”.

But Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, said government’s decision-making processes needed to sharpen up. “[It] is just not there at this point,” she added.

Armitt’s comments come as the Welsh government yesterday scrapped the M4 relief road around Newport.

The £1.4bn job, which would have involved widening the route to six lanes around a bottleneck at the Brynglas Tunnels, was pulled by first minister Mark Drakeford becasue he said the cost was unacceptable given the “uncertainty as to the financial position of the Welsh government”.

For full feature on infrastructure’s future see tomorrow’s website