Delivering his speech, Alexander said the government has accepted a recommendation by Lord Paul Deighton, commercial secretary to the Treasury, to “take crucial infrastructure delivery out of the hands of civil servants, and into the hands of commercial experts”.
Deighton, who was in charge the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, has now been given a mandate to "overhaul the delivery of public-sector infrastructure projects and programmes”.
Deighton - formerly chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs in Europe, has previously expressed his frustration with “a fundamental misallocation of resources” within government, which, he said, employs more civil servants capable of designing policies than delivering major projects.
Also set out in the infrastructure plan, the Highways Agency will be turned into a publicly-owned corporation – an organisation Alexander said will “have the long term funding certainty and flexibility to deliver the best possible road network for the UK’s motorists”. The Treasury expects to save £600m in running cost by changing the format of the agency.
Another major focus in today’s speech has been green energy. Alexander announced the prices government will pay companies which produce renewable energy from technologies including on-shore and off-shore wind; tidal; wave; bio-mass; and solar.
He also announced a £800m boost for the Green Investment Bank, which has so far been given £3bn of taxpayers’ money to attract private investment into green energy.
Further, Alexander announced it for the first time will be able to borrow £500m in 2015-16 from government – a step he described as “a real milestone for green investment”.
Other projects announced today include a guarantee of up to £500 million to support investment in the Mersey Gateway Bridge, and a multi-billion pound guarantee to advance the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, the rebuilding of 261 of the country’s worst schools by 2017, and a £42.6bn funding envelope for High Speed 2, which is £8bn over budget.
Alexander also pledged more support for local leadership on economic development by establishing a Single Local Growth Fund to transfer funding streams to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
A total of £2 billion next year and at least that in every year for the rest of the decade will go to LEPs, meaning they will control at least £20bn until 2020.