Engineers call on the government to give Britain a minister for infrastructure and greater devolved powers for cities

Rebecca Smith
Leading players in the infrastructure sector said the government shouldn't hold off on investment decisions for projects like Crossrail despite Brexit uncertainty
Leading players in the infrastructure sector said the government shouldn't hold off on investment decisions for projects like Crossrail despite Brexit uncertainty (Source: Getty)

Infrastructure leaders have called for the government to adopt 10 new measures, including the creation of a dedicated infrastructure minister and further devolution of fiscal powers to cities.

They claim the recommendations, set out in a new report by global infrastructure firm WSP and the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), will improve the UK's productivity and improve the delivery of UK infrastructure.

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Stephen Hammond, Conservative MP for Wimbledon and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on infrastructure, said:

Where we fail institutionally at present is that we do not have a minister for infrastructure, let alone a department for it, and that is really a problem because at a political level it needs a champion.

Some argue that should be the chancellor, and at one level it should be, but at another level you need a minister to drive infrastructure in this country.

The 10 measures were developed off the back of an industry survey and series of round tables last year, with 152 infrastructure industry executives. The majority felt the public does not understand the role of infrastructure in enabling growth and 72 per cent said cities should have greater fiscal control and decision-taking powers on investment priorities.

Nearly all of the infrastructure leaders also said the government should not put investment decisions on the back burner while the nation waits for greater certainty on Britain's relationship with Europe.

Dr Nelson Ogunshakin OBE, chief executive of 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."

The 10 measures to improve UK infrastructure

  1. The establishment of a minister for infrastructure who could head a fully-fledged national infrastructure department
  2. The empowerment of metropolitan leaders to become local clients with powers to produce comprehensive local development plans
  3. The devolution of fiscal power to London, Birmingham, Manchester, and other big UK cities
  4. Facilitating the connectivity between cities to develop better connected economic corridors
  5. Migrating to a more stable long-term pipeline of infrastructure projects to give the private sector greater investment confidence
  6. The social value of infrastructure e.g. jobs should be made more obvious to the public
  7. New structures and governance models must be implemented that will facilitate regional integration
  8. New place-based identities that will promote cities and regions and help attract investors
  9. Making infrastructure more resilient to climate change
  10. A greater focus on brownfield sites to allow more efficient land utilisation

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