In his opening address at the CEF/SPECIFY Awards, CEF Managing Director John Armstrong reflected on the lack of government and lack of funding in Northern Ireland…
John Armstrong said: “Tonight is, obviously, a celebration of our industry’s collective achievements. “However, at a time of immense political and economic uncertainty it is only right that we reflect on these ongoing challenges. As we have said many times before, in a purely Northern Ireland context, the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive cannot, alone, solve the crisis we are in. However, it being in place is a crucial enabler to having a sustainable pipeline of work, putting in place multi-year budgets which can provide certainty to the market and dealing with the key infrastructure funding challenges which are continuing to hold otherwise vital development back.
“Those funding challenges are most prevalent with NI Water. The consistent underfunding of NI Water has led to a drastic curtailment in much needed wastewater treatment works upgrades right across Northern Ireland and, consequently, a significant slowdown in the number of new homes being started and completed. We and our members find it staggering to the point of absurdity how little political focus there is on fixing this issue given how critical it is to development of all types, not just new homes.
“Fundamentally, the price control process that NI Water are currently engaged in for the period 2021-27 is going to make the situation no better. For as long as their governance and financial model remains as it is, we will continue to face into a funding black hole which will make practically all of our collective infrastructure goals unachievable. A restored Northern Ireland Executive has to make this their number one infrastructure challenge to resolve – it will not be acceptable to simply kick the can down the road again.”