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Alternatives to PFI needed to fund waste infrastructure

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s spring statement has announced a review into infrastructure funding and how the UK can decarbonise its economy while building essential large-scale facilities and projects, including waste plants. 

The foreword from Robert Jenrick, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said the Government is committed to improving and renewing infrastructure, and that the role of the private sector will be “vital” to these efforts.

Jenrick added: “We want to facilitate further private investment and involvement in infrastructure delivery. As we leave the EU, our relationship with the European Investment Bank will change and, while we will explore the options for a future relationship with the EIB, we must and will be prepared for all scenarios.”

The background to this is that private finance initiatives (PFIs) which have, in the past, been used to fund infrastructure, including waste projects, have fallen out of favour because of concerns about cost effectiveness.

Any new funding scenario by private finance must, according to the review, outweigh the additional cost to the taxpayer. The Government is not looking for a “like-for-like” replacement for PFI models and will “not consider proposals demonstrating the same characteristics”.

While the infrastructure finance review finds significant ongoing “appetite” for infrastructure investment, it also flags future concerns about challenges to attracting investment for projects involving unproven technologies – which has been an issue in the past for the waste industry.

Other concerns raised included finding funding for large, complex projects, and ensuring a steady supply of finance during adverse market conditions, which are also pertinent to waste and recycling.

Interested parties are being urged to share their views with the consultation, and the review will help inform the Government’s first national infrastructure strategy. The focus of the review includes waste, energy, transport, water, flood defences, mobile telecoms and broadband.

The Government will also appoint a panel of experts to provide guidance. Responses can be sent via InfrastructureFinanceReview@hmtreasury.gov.uk and the consultation will close on 5 June 2019.

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