IPA annual report shows slowdown in major government projects

New figures published by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority reveals a slowdown in the number of new major government projects over the last 12 months. 

The annual report, which details the most complex and strategically significant projects and programmes across government, highlights clear evidence that there has been a slowdown of new projects joining the Government’s Major Project Portfolio. Only 18 new projects were added to the portfolio in 2017-18, which is the lowest number since the IPA started publishing its annual report 6 years ago – and was 50 per cent less than the number added in 2016-17. 

The report also shows that 29 projects left the GMPP list – which is the lowest number since IPA started publishing its reports. Only one project left the list because it was prematurely stopped, which is an improvement on previous years.

The report shows there has also been stability in project leadership as the churn of Senior Responsible Owners (SRO) has been reducing year on year, which is important as SRO continuity has been shown to improve the delivery of major projects. 

Andy Murray, partner at RSM, said: ‘It’s good to see real positives within this year’s IPA annual report – with less projects stalling and improved continuity in project leadership; however, the slowdown in new projects joining the GMPP is concerning. With Parliamentary and departmental time diverted toward managing the Brexit process, it is hoped that time has not been taken away from much-needed strategic infrastructure and projects.’

The report also shows the cumulative whole life costs of the projects on the GMPP list is broadly the same as previous years, yet it has significantly fewer projects than in 2014 - meaning the average value of the projects has essentially increased by around 33 per cent in just four years (£2.4bn average in 2014 compared with £3.2bn average in 2018). 

Andy adds: ‘This flies against recommendations from previous National Audit Office reports to avoid megalithic projects with final big bang delivery instead of having a more incremental and iterative release of capability. This could be why the current list has the highest percentage of red rated projects since the IPA started publishing its annual review.

‘Although it is good to see major projects assessed by their whole life costs rather than just their initial capital costs, it's a shame that the report doesn’t capture the benefits and value that key projects deliver. We would call for the introduction of monitoring the Benefits Cost Ratio (BCR) across the portfolio to show whether that is improving or deteriorating.’