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Sir John Armitt warns of danger in ignoring National Infrastructure Assessment

Armitt cropped

National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) chair Sir John Armitt has warned the government that ignoring the first ever National Infrastructure Assessment would result in a “weak” policies.

In a letter to chancellor Philip Hammond, Armitt urged the government to implement the findings of the NIC’s infrastructure assessment when he publishes his national Spending Review in the Autumn.

The Commission published the country’s first National Infrastructure Assessment last year, making a series of detailed recommendations for how the government should develop the UK’s energy, transport, water and technology networks over the next 30 years. The government is required to consider the proposals and formally respond with its own strategy.

Armitt expressed concern that the government would not give the National Infrastructure Assessment the due “service” during the Spending Review.

“Building the right infrastructure for the mid-21st century will help Britain shape a new national and global identity. One built on optimism and confidence,” Armitt wrote in the letter to Hammond.

“The government must not deliver a weak strategy that pays only lip service to our recommendations. We don’t want to hear vague promises and a restatement of existing commitments.”

In his letter, Armitt sets out four key areas that he wants the government to address.

  • A long term perspective – the strategy must look beyond the immediate spending review period and set out the government’s expectations for infrastructure funding and policy up to 2050.
  • Clear goals and plans to achieve them – where the government endorses an Assessment recommendation, this should be backed up with a specific plan, with clear deadlines and identified owners, to ensure the Commission can easily check progress.
  • A firm funding commitment – the government should commit to providing funding in line with the upper limit of the agreed guideline: 1.2% of GDP a year invested in infrastructure.
  • A genuine commitment to change – recommendations such as devolving funding for urban transport to cities and a national standard for flood resilience are fundamental policy changes, and “the strategy needs to respond in the same spirit.”

Armitt added: “These four tests represent our minimum requirements ahead of this autumn’s Spending Review for determining the effectiveness of the government’s response.

“We’ve seen positive steps from the government in adopting our recommendations on reducing water leakage and tackling waste. But those were the easy wins. Real change is required if we are to boost our economic prosperity and quality of life up to 2050. That requires the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy to be bold and transformative and commit to major changes like devolving funding for cities’ transport.”

National Infrastructure Assessment main recommendations:

  • Extend access to full fibre broadband services across the country, with government funding to enable provision in rural and remote communities
  • Aim for 50% of the UK’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, with the government offering support for no more than one nuclear power station after Hinkley Point C between now and 2025
  • Create a truly national, visible charging network for electric vehicles through subsidies in areas where the private sector will not deliver in the short term, and through councils allocating a portion of their parking spaces for future charging points
  • Provide additional powers and £43bn funding between now and 2040 to help city leaders develop strategies for improving their local transport networks and delivering new job opportunities and homes
  • Deliver a national resilience standard to protect communities against the risk of flooding, and setting water companies a target to halve the amount of water lost to leakages to ensure supplies are resilient against an increased risk of drought

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