Infrastructure delivery key to UK 'gold', says former Olympics chief Lord Deighton

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Speeding up infrastructure delivery is critical if Britain is to “win gold” in the global economy, said Lord Deighton, former Olympics organising committee chief executive and new Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, as he raised the prospect of planning short cuts for major building projects.

Lord Deighton a former Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS-PB - news) banker who went onto become lead the Olympics organising committee started his new Treasury job on Monday. He told MPs he intends to bring a similar “urgency and focus” to infrastructure projects as he did with the Olympics, while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.

“Having modern infrastructure is absolutely vital for us to have a successful economy. We need an economy that can win gold in its competition with the rest of the world,” he said. “What the Chancellor wants from me is getting projects done. My job is to reduce inappropriate delays, unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape.”

Asked whether he would like the powers to “short circuit” planning rules by reducing local residents’ rights as happened at the Olympic Park, he said: “I think that in certain projects that is very necessary. Yes.”

One of his first moves has been to launch a “capability review” of Whitehall staff and leadership in particular. He hinted at the use of bonuses to incentivise new hires, saying getting “people of the right skills raises questions about compensation levels”.

He added that a beefed-up Infrastructure UK department may also employ firms of consultants. Tory MP Brooks Newmark warned that Lord Deighton may face a “communications issue around consultants fees or compensation”.

Members of the Treasury Select Committee, before which Lord Deighton was appearing, warned the former banker about the difficulties of adjusting from private sector to political life. Lord Thurso said Westminster was littered with “the bleached bones” of other private sector success stories.

The Treasury has identified 300 projects costing £300bn, of which 40 are high priority. About two-thirds will need to be privately financed, Lord Deighton said. Pension funds were a “wonderfully good match” as investment partners, he added.