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New State of the Nation due

ICE news - Next week the ICE will release its State of the Nation report on Britain's infrastructure. John McKenna talks to those responsible for putting it together.

ASSESSING AND reporting the country's infrastructure needs has been a signicant annual logistical effort for One Great George Street ever since State of the Nation was first launched.

Putting together this year's report was made all the more challenging by the fact that, for the first time, it includes contributions from all of the ICE's regions.

When the ICE releases State of the Nation 2006 next week, its usual analysis and grading of different sectors will be supported by regional examples and brieng sheets.

Each region has chosen a couple of sectors to focus on, and if their conclusions support those of the relevant ICE board, they will be included in the national document.

'Obviously you can't include everything the regions include [in their own reports], so we ask them to prioritise, ' says ICE senior marketing communications executive Ed Horton.

Horton's role is to liaise with all the parties involved in putting State of the Nation together and see it through to its final form.

To control the volume of material supplied by the regions, each is asked to provide no more than 150 words on their chosen sectors.

ICE Northern Ireland opted to focus its efforts on waste management and energy.

'For various reasons in recent years, waste hasn't been at the forefront of people's minds in Northern Ireland, ' says ICE Northern Ireland regional liaison manager Wendy Blundell.

'We are bit behind the rest of the UK, with 85% of our waste deposited in land l. There is a backlog, but we are looking at changing that.' Energy too, is a sector where Northern Ireland is very different to the rest of the UK and which had a relatively low profile in the region's previous State of the Nation reports.

Blundell says that now is the time to highlight the need for Northern Ireland's energy sector to become more efficient and competitive. Energy infrastructure also needs to be brought up to a similar standard as the rest of the UK.

When the regions have decided their priorities, it is up to the chairs of the ICE boards to determine which submissions they want to use in support of their nationwide assessments. If a region's concerns fail to make the final cut, all is not lost. Indepth brie g sheets will be provided with the report.

David Orr, ICE vice president for marketing and communications and State of the Nation panel vice chairman, says that drawing regional information into the national report enhances it.

It also has the benet of saving costs, as there are no individual regional reports covering all sectors this year.

The only concern Blundell has with the new format is that regions as heavily devolved as Northern Ireland may still need their own reports because of the vast differences between their issues and those of mainland UK.

'We aren't so sure that hitting our politicians with mainland UK issues will achieve as much, ' she says.

The use of the regions has meant more people for Horton and his team to liaise with, but has conversely meant less people for the regions to deal with.

'We have only been dealing with two experts [one for waste, one for energy] as opposed to a panel of 10 [for all the sectors], ' says Blundell.

These experts write the reports for the regions, which in turn pass them on to the State of the Nation panel.

As well as scrutinising the regional submissions, the panel members, who are the chairs of the ICE boards, evaluate each other's work.

Orr says that 'the day we spent looking at each panel's grading helped ensure continuity in the scores, however, it was also a real eye-opener. I learnt so much that I've put it down as a day's CPD.' Once the panel has reached a conclusion on the report's contents, Horton then has to make it accessible to non-engineers.

'I liaised with the Plain Language Commission to make sure that it is easily understood, ' he says.

'The Commission suggested revisions and changes, and then the report went back to the ICE experts to agree the final wording.' All through the process of putting together the report, Horton liaised with the ICE's design team as they developed its presentation.

The design of the report and the language in which it is written is almost as important as its content, says Orr.

'We have got to get the message across to lay people and make an impact on government ministers. It's not going to be credible if politicians have to wade through tons of technical language.' l State of the Nation is published on Tuesday. Full coverage and analysis is in next week's NCE.

Last year's grades Energy D Waste management D Water & wastewater B+ Flood management C+ Transport N/A Roads C+ Rail C Local transport C Airports C+ Seaports B-

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