The government's potential shift in attitude towards infrastructure investment since Brexit should be welcomed by the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), says Jeff Houston.
The Local Government Association's (LGA) head of pensions told PP Chancellor Philip Hammond's (pictured above) speech at the annual Conservative Party conference on 3 October could signal a "change in mood music".
Houston believes the tone of Hammond's speech suggested the government is more willing to treat those managing the pooled funds as partners.
He said: "We got to a point where there was a danger we would lose the benefit of infrastructure investment because of the way people were being told to do it. This is a step in the right direction but we need to see more details on what is on offer from the government."
Hammond spoke about ensuring the UK has a "world class infrastructure" to maintain competitiveness and "making sure that it is long-term economics, not short-term politics that drives Britain's vital infrastructure investment."
To implement this, the National Infrastructure Commission is to be "at the very heart... of plans to renew and expand Britain's infrastructure."
Houston added that prior to Brexit a lot of people in the LGPS felt they were being told what to do by the government and that it had become an undemocratic process.
He also said the government seems to have opened up to investing in more "down to earth" projects such as housebuilding, roads, bridges, schools. "The emphasis has changed and in terms of the LGPS it is a conversation we want to have with the government in terms of co-investment and how projects happen going forward."
Pensions Infrastructure Platform (PIP) chief executive Mike Weston also welcomed the chancellor's speech. "It is positive that Hammond is talking about it - but as ever the key will be translating the words into actual decisions and actions. PIP can facilitate the realisation of crucial infrastructure projects by debt and equity investments."
Trades Union Congress pensions policy officer Tim Sharp also praised the government's focus but warned "it has to be more than words".
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