Placing infrastructure improvements at the heart of the devolution agenda could significantly boost local growth, environmental sustainability and quality of life, according to a new ICE report.
The report adds that combined local authorities can realise these benefits with the right investment, frameworks and skills.
The ICE’s State of the Nation: Devolution report backs the government’s efforts to rebalance the economy, its focus on infrastructure as the key driver, and the creation of new combined authorities and transport bodies.
But the Institution has called for greater efforts to deliver the benefits of devolution. In a 10 point plan it said local authorities should be granted greater access to flexible financing streams to supplement central government funding. This could enable investment in infrastructure that is “transformational”, as well as developing the skills to deliver it.
The ICE said an infrastructure strategy based on need should be established for every current and emerging economic area to ensure money is directed at the right projects. The strategy includes rural areas without a multi-city make up.
The ICE also recommended that all new devolution proposals clearly set out how they will improve environmental sustainability and quality of life, and how they will drive growth. It claimed a more integrated approach would produce broader benefits and could attract more public support for devolution.
ICE vice president, Adrian Coy, said: “The benefits of effective infrastructure are well established – it can boost economic growth, create jobs, regenerate communities, connect people and places and drive environmental sustainability. It is right that infrastructure investment is the driving force behind the government’s plans to rebalance the economy, and we hope to see ongoing commitment to the devolution agenda during the European Union exit negotiations, so momentum is not lost.
“Looking forwards, combined authorities must now take the helm and deliver these benefits locally. This will be no mean feat, but with the right frameworks, investment and skills in place they can succeed.
“We would like to see the restrictions on combined authorities accessing additional financing streams lifted, so they can invest in infrastructure – and skills – that can really transform a region.
“To ensure decisions on spending are strategic, overarching infrastructure strategies should be developed, based on need. Midlands Connect and Transport for the North have provided greater focus for transport services and we should build on this success, establishing strategies for all networks– recognising their interdependent nature – and all wider areas as they emerge. The National Needs Assessment ICE is leading, which will feed into the National Infrastructure Commission, offers a workable model.”