Ministry of infrastructure needed to improve delivery and boost growth

Ian Liddell, MD for planning & advisory at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, launchiing the report at the Houses of Parliament.

Infrastructure leaders have called on the next government to form a new ministry for infrastructure as part of a ten-point plan to improve the delivery of UK infrastructure and boost economic productivity and growth.

The recommendations have been outlined in a new white paper report, Cities and Infrastructure: Ensuring infrastructure continues to drive the UK economy, produced by global infrastructure consultancy WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff in collaboration with the Association for Consultancy and Engineering and Infrastructure Intelligence.

Key new actions include the creation of a dedicated infrastructure minister, further devolution of fiscal powers to regional powerhouses, and the development of more economic corridors that better connect cities.

The ten opportunities outlined for government were developed following an industry survey and a series of round tables held last year by WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff and Infrastructure Intelligence of 152 infrastructure industry executives. The ten measures outlined in the report are:    

  1. The establishment of a minister for infrastructure to provide a clear, strong focus in government and who could head a fully-fledged national infrastructure department. 
  2. The empowerment of metropolitan leaders to become local clients with powers and financial resources to produce comprehensive local development plans.
  3. The devolution of fiscal power to London, Birmingham, Manchester, and the other big UK cities. 
  4. Facilitating the connectivity within and between cities to develop better connected economic corridors and nodes that will act as growth promoters. 
  5. Migrating to a more stable long-term pipeline of infrastructure projects to give the private sector greater investment confidence. Five-year investment-cycles have proved unable to facilitate long-term infrastructure provision.
  6. The social value of infrastructure (jobs, schools, hospitals, etc.) should be made more obvious to the public. 
  7. New structures and governance models must be implemented that will facilitate regional integration and strategic planning;
  8. New place-based identities that will promote cities and regions and help attract investors. (Cardiff Capital Region comprises three enterprise zones in which the Welsh Government is prioritising investment in business infrastructure);
  9. Making infrastructure more resilient to climate change 
  10. A greater focus on brownfield sites to allow more efficient land utilisation. 

The industry survey found that: -

  • 80% thought that the public does not understand the role of infrastructure in enabling growth.
  • 72% thought that cities should have greater fiscal/revenue control and decision-taking powers on investment priorities.
  • 94% thought that the government should not put off investment decisions until there was greater certainty on Britain’s relationship with the rest of Europe.
  • 79% said the quality of our cities and the public realm will be of increasing importance in increasing our national competitiveness should we leave the EU.

Commenting on the report, Ian Liddell, MD for planning & advisory, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, said: “Infrastructure is an enabler of growth, drives the economy and ultimately our national prosperity. There is cross-party understanding of infrastructure’s importance, so we would like to see politicians on the campaign trail demonstrating their commitment by explaining at a national and local level how they are going to deliver the measures we need to become a more competitive and productive country”. 

Dr Nelson Ogunshakin OBE, CEO Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), said: “We are living in rapidly changing times characterised chiefly by technological progress and rapid urban population growth. These two challenges alone are exerting huge stresses on our towns and cities. We can at least relieve these pressures by ensuring we have the right infrastructure in place delivered at the right time and at the right cost to society. But to achieve this will require from both industry and the government an on-going rapport that is well-informed, joined-up and all inclusive.”

Click here to download the report.

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