The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has published its State of the Nation: Devolution 2016 report today.
The engineering body said that placing infrastructure improvements at the heart of the devolution agenda could significantly boost local growth, environmental sustainability and quality of life. It added that with the right investment, frameworks and skills, newly created Combined Authorities and transport bodies could realise those full benefits.
It also said that the report backs the Government’s effort to rebalance the economy with the focus on infrastructure as the key driver.
In the report the ICE has set out a 10 point plan which it said could further equip authorities in delivering the maximum benefits of devolution to society. Within the plan it called for the bodies to be granted greater access to flexible financing streams to supplement central government funding. This, it said, would enable investment in infrastructure that was “transformational”, together with the skills that would be needed to deliver it.
Furthermore, the ICE said an infrastructure strategy based on need should be established for every current and emerging economic area – including more rural areas without a multi-city make up – so money can be directed towards the right projects.
“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,” said State of the Nation: Devolution steering group chair and ICE vice president Adrian Coy.
“It is right that infrastructure investment is the driving force behind Government’s plans to rebalance the economy, and we hope to see ongoing commitment to the devolution agenda during the EU exit negotiations, so momentum is not lost.”
Coy explained that the committee would like to see restrictions on Combined Authorities accessing additional financing streams lifted, so that they could invest in infrastructure and skills which could “really transform a region”. While Combined Authorities had the will and powers, their financial means were currently limited, he added.
“To ensure decisions on spending are strategic, overarching infrastructure strategies should be developed, based on need,” said Coy.
“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 full report is available to download here.
ICE’s 10 recommendations
- All future devolution proposals should demonstrate how they will improve quality of life and environmental sustainability in addition to driving economic growth
- Authorities seeking a devolution deal should demonstrate a clear model for leadership and accountability; however models to achieve this should reflect each area’s unique identity
- Restrictions stopping combined authorities from accessing flexible private finance streams must be lifted if they are to deliver and maintain transformative infrastructure
- Future devolution deals must include funding for digital infrastructure so smart technologies which improve services for the public and the environment can be developed
- Infrastructure strategies should be developed for emerging economic areas in England setting out needs, to provide a framework for decision-making
- Similar approaches to identify strategic needs should be developed for London, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland
- Infrastructure strategies must have resilience at their heart – considering the interdependent nature of each area’s networks and mitigating the knock-on failure which can occur during extreme weather, affecting local businesses and economies
- Regional pipelines setting out confirmed infrastructure projects should be developed, enabling government, authorities, industry and academia to invest in the right training in the local area
- Combined authorities should be given responsibility for the skills development of those aged 16-19 – in addition to those aged 19 plus – to create a more joined up approach
- Government should provide pre-submission advice to ensure high quality devolution proposals that deliver effective outcomes for the country.