October 22, 2013 / 7:48 AM / 6 years ago

UK infrastructure guarantee scheme used once in 15 months

LONDON (Reuters) - A British government scheme to drive job creation and economic growth by helping to underwrite infrastructure projects has been used just once in 15 months, official figures showed on Tuesday.

The UK Guarantee Scheme has the capacity to underwrite up to 40 billion pounds of investments up to 2016, and energy, road and rail projects worth 33 billion pounds have qualified for funds, up 12 percent from 29.5 billion in June.

But just one, the conversion of Drax power station, has used the guarantee since Chancellor George Osborne announced the policy in July 2012, with the government underwriting 75 million pounds of funding on the 700-million-pound project.

The guarantee scheme is designed to speed up the building of new infrastructure, a cornerstone of the government’s growth plan, by allowing firms to benefit from the state’s lower credit rating when raising funds.

It is not awarded until projects have undergone due diligence and are ready to tap financial markets, a process that can take months or sometimes years after prequalification.

A 16-billion-pound deal to build Hinkley Point nuclear power station agreed on Monday prequalified for the guarantee scheme earlier this year.

Osborne said in March said that, separately, the government would spend an extra 3 billion pounds a year from 2015/16 on infrastructure projects, a sum industry said was “insignificant”.

The finance ministry was unable to provide official figures for completions or project starts since 2010.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party, which has criticised the government’s track record on infrastructure projects, kept up the attack on Tuesday.

“At a time when we need to invest in infrastructure to create jobs and boost living standards, and strengthen our economy for the long term, this is an appalling record,” Labour lawmaker and party finance spokesman Chris Leslie said.

Reporting by Christine Murray; Editing by David Evans and John Stonestreet

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