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‘Significant’ issues found with major projects aimed at levelling up the nation, report finds

The latest Annual Report on Major Projects by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), the centre for excellence for Government project delivery, shows that over 80% of major government projects are rated red or amber, meaning that successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable or significant issues must be addressed if it is to be delivered successfully.

The report provides a detailed snapshot into the diversity and status of the 235 projects across the Government’s growing Major Project Portfolio (GMPP) worth £678bn, outlining their likelihood of success. This includes projects that underpins the UK Government’s levelling up agenda, which aims to boost productivity, pay, jobs and living standards; spread opportunities and improve public services; and empower local leaders and communities.

Compared to previous years, this year had the second largest intake of new projects where 76 projects have been added to the GMPP and 25 projects have left. This influx of projects reinforces how IPA now places value on front-end loading.

This year, the report shows 24 projects were rated green (10% of the GMPP) and 27 projects were assigned red (11%) while 170 projects (72%) were rated amber.

While there are more GMPP projects in this year's report compared to last year's (235 vs 184), the total number of projects categorised as red or amber has increased significantly, from 135 in 2021 to 197 in 2022.

Of the levelling up projects that were directly cited in the report, none were rated green, eight were amber and two were red. These include:

  • Frontline Digitisation (amber) – Delivery of a digitally enabled health and care system, where the health service and its users have the digital services and access to the data they need to effectively manage and improve health and wellbeing. The Frontline Digitisation programme will support this vision by levelling up Integrated care systems (ICSs) and providers to a baseline level of digital capability.
  • Planning Reform (red) – Creation of a modernised and effective planning system, that empowers communities to support, and local authorities to deliver, the beautiful, environmentally friendly development that the country needs. This will contribute to realising our Levelling Up agenda.
  • Levelling up fund (LUF) (amber) – The LUF will invest £4.8 billion in local infrastructure that has a visible impact, improving everyday life for people. It will focus on three themes: smaller transport projects; town centre and high street regeneration; and support for maintaining and expanding cultural and heritage assets.

Andrew Baldwin, Head of Public Affairs at APM

The report acts as a double edge sword by outlining in real terms the huge benefits that could be achieved if projects are delivered successfully; but also highlights, publicly, the Government’s sizeable investments that could be lost if project success isn’t delivered, risking confidence in the UK's project delivery capability.

Commenting on the report Andrew Baldwin, Head of Public Affairs, APM said:

“The scale, size and ambition of public sector projects is continuing to grow, so it's concerning that so many of these major projects are encountering issues.

“While the report’s snapshot didn’t display a sea of green as one might like, the IPA’s vital ability to report transparently and accurately on projects ensures the right mechanisms are in place to underpin projects with the support, guidance and input they need to safeguard success.

“Given the visibility and broad appeal of these projects, it's important the Government takes the time to heed the advice and insight provided by the IPA and continues to support its project delivery capability to reduce the red and green statuses from next year’s report.”

So, what can be done to get back to green?

Evidence of forward-looking investment in skills and capability to tackle the rising demand on the GMPP is promising, as too is a greater focus on projects that closely support wider government priorities, from levelling up to achieving net zero by 2050. This is underpinned by a new suite of metrics that reflect these priorities. Projects are now also being better set up for success from the start, with the IPA onboarding projects at their launch to front-end load the benefits and ensure that rigorous oversight of project management and delivery is applied to all major projects. This in some cases accounts for the growing size of the GMPP.

The IPA’s Chief Executive, Nick Smallwood, sounded a positive note, commenting in the report, he wrote:

“It is essential that both government and industry are aligned in our vision, and so we need to continue to be rigorous and ambitious in transforming the project delivery landscape.

“The positive measures we have taken over the past year to upskill our people, improve processes and drive better performance have set a solid foundation and are paving the way for this to become a reality. All of us in project delivery have the chance to make real change and provide a better future for citizens of the UK. I look forward to seeing that happen.”

Andrew Baldwin added:

“There should be no illusion that transforming government project delivery will happen overnight and while we acknowledge the efforts and successes of the IPA in bolstering government project delivery, there is still more to do. Having the right people with the right skills in place and processes to support them is an important step, and we expect to see a growing number of Chartered Project Professionals at the helm of these projects as that continues.”

In 2021, APM launched its Major Project Leadership Specialist Certificate, recognising the unique skillset required to lead major projects and the complexities involved. As the chartered organisation for the project profession, APM continues to champion and celebrate success through activities including the APM Awards.

The full report is available on the IPA website.


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