The Government's top infrastrucure adviser has called on ministers to speed up the devolution of funding and powers to city leaders so they can develop ‘transformative’ local infrastructure strategies.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has launched a new toolkit offering advice to cities on developing strategies to underpin improvements in transport, housing and employment prospects.
It pointed out that it called in the (2018) National Infrastructure Assessment for government to invest more in urban transport and offer devolved, long-term funding settlements to all cities, along with a recommendation that government should work with local authorities to identify a wave of major transport projects, such as new tram services, in the fastest growing, most congested cities.
It said that while some progress has been made – for instance an announcement in the spring Budget that eight combined authorities with elected metro mayors would receive five-year funding settlements for transport – ‘the Commission continues to recommend that further steps should be taken to enable cities leaders to develop transformative local infrastructure strategies’.
Speaking at a virtual event co-hosted by Centre for Cities, NIC chair Sir John Armitt (pictured) told city leaders, including Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham: ‘Infrastructure has an incredible, game-changing ability when we get it right. I hope our report demonstrates how this success can become a reality for every urban centre across the country.
‘And, of course, I hope central government feels able to play their part in releasing the powers and resources you need.’
The NIC said the guidance seeks to maximise the impact of the further devolution of powers and funding to city regions it has recommended, ‘by sharing experience and knowledge between local authorities on how locally developed strategies can be both ambitious and effective’.
Working in partnership with local authorities across the country, and in-depth work with five case study cities, it has drawn together common aspects of successful strategies, featuring eight principles:
- developing a compelling vision that engages citizens, senior officials and elected members and sets the objectives for their strategy;
- careful scoping, identifying where policy areas beyond core infrastructure – such as health and wellbeing, inclusion, environment and the economy – can contribute to achieving the aims of the strategy;
- developing strategies in dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders, including across political parties and professions;
- gathering strong evidence, assessing available data and identifying gaps;
- being open to the full range of options available to deliver the strategic aims – including considering maintenance and upgrade;
- stress testing plans to ensure they are resilient to possible shocks;
- clear prioritization and a pragmatic approach to what is achievable, building on the options and testing process;
- building in evaluation from the start of the process – including allocating budgets.