There has been a lot of talk in recent months about the need for the country to ‘level-up’, but how that happens is still unclear.
After delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK Government has its chance to set out in detail how they will fulfil their promise of long-term infrastructure development and investment in communities across the country, with the publication of a Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), and the autumn Budget.
The HM Treasury’s CSR
will set out the government’s spending plans for the parliament. The review is wide ranging, and open for external stakeholders to submit representations. ICE will be submitting a response shortly.
The Institution will also be engaging in a range of activities in the lead- up to the final CSR publication, with a view to influencing decisions on areas from investment to policy trade-offs.
From ICE President Paul Sheffield giving evidence in front of the Treasury Select Committee and participating in events at both the Labour Party and Conservative Party conferences, to hosting roundtable discussions with industry leaders, ICE will use its influence as the home of infrastructure to ensure investment is focused on long-term demand drivers and embedding change at the systemic level to improve delivery is at the heart of the CSR.
Check back regularly for updates on our work in this area.
Skills, coordination and leadership discussed as part of a Presidential Breakfast with the Shadow Chancellor - 28 October
As part of the run-up to the Spending Review, ICE hosted a virtual Presidential Breakfast with Anneliese Dodds MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Shadow Chancellor led us in conversation on the main challenges that need to be solved if the infrastructure system is to play its full role in achieving sustainable outcomes. These outcomes include decarbonising to meet the net-zero target and tackling regional inequalities. Skills, the role of local leadership and the need for coherence and coordination all came to the fore as part of the discussion. Key points raised in the meeting include:
- Coordination is going to be necessary if we are going to make real progress on the transformational change we need and this will require leadership, particular as this change will require decisions to be made on politically sensitive trade-offs.
- The roundtable highlighted that during the pandemic, we have seen clear examples of what good coordination can achieve, with industries working with the government on solutions to burning challenges, particularly at a sub-national level. Leadership at the local and regional level was singled out as a critical factor to pull together diffuse strands of activity towards a targeted outcome. Acting at this level also helps to cut across party politics to look at what places need; local action can also be nimbler and more responsive compared to effort at the national level.
- Attendees highlighted the need to increase available talent as a significant challenge and opportunity. Many of the issues on improving the skills system are long-standing, the need to decarbonise presents a chance to train up technical and civil engineering talent for the long-term, as these will be needed to grapple with the challenges that will arise from transitioning the economy to low carbon.
- Attendees highlighted that two ingredients were needed to pave the way for rapid progress, money and long-term certainty. Money to pay for the transition and long-term certainty to support capacity building across industry, local and regional government to drive change.
With the Spending Review confirmed for 25 November and expectations of associated announcements such as the National Infrastructure Strategy going ahead, we will hopefully start to see a coherent picture of the future before the year is out.
ICE sets out key CSR asks in submissions to select committee inquiries - 21 October
During August and September the ICE policy and public affairs team made submissions to three parliamentary select committee inquiries outlining a range of policy and investment priorities for the UK’s infrastructure networks in the months and years ahead.
The inquiries that evidence was submitted to were:
Now that each committee has published ICE’s submissions the Institution is able to share them publicly itself. The recommendations and interventions in the submissions naturally align with the representation ICE made to the Comprehensive Spending Review.
Across the submissions the messages remain clear.
In the short to medium-term more investment is required in full-fibre and 5G rollout, and in active travel infrastructure, to support more remote forms of working and living. However, longer-term infrastructure drivers remain unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic and there continues to be a strategic need for investment in traditional transport networks and in programmes aimed at greening the infrastructure sector.
Improving project delivery also remains paramount and it is increasingly necessary that a net-zero infrastructure plan is put in place to ensure that the sector plays its part in meeting the 2050 net-zero emissions target.
Read our blog
Deliverability of infrastructure remains key priority, says Chancellor – 8 October
Ensuring deliverability of key infrastructure proposals remains a key priority, says the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
While visiting One Great George Street recently, Chancellor Rishi Sunak emphasized that a return on investment, addressing the nation's priorities and deliverability are set to be the key factors that determine future infrastructure investment by the UK government.
The ICE-hosted event, run by the Enterprise Forum, was part of this year’s Conservative Party Conference.
ICE’s Director of Policy Chris Richards spoke to the Chancellor, emphasizing the importance of improving infrastructure delivery as part of the upcoming Spending Review.
Read more about the event here
Skills, and investment in infrastructure vital to pandemic recovery, says Minister - 7 October
“Skills and investment in infrastructure will be vital to the [Covid-19] recovery.” That was the message from Gillian Keegan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, this morning at the Conservative Party conference.
She was speaking at an event that explored the priorities for upcoming policy and spending decisions in the UK, Building a Better Future: The Role of Engineering in Society and the Spending Review. Keegan was joined on the panel by Amanda Solloway, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science, Research and Innovation, Professor Jim Hall, Fellow of Institution of Civil Engineers, and members of the National Engineering Policy Centre.
The panel discussed the need to ensure that we have the skills to deliver the future engineering challenges and to drive innovation amongst the engineering sector. Key in this is having a strategic workforce plan, something ICE supports in our State of the Nation report where we call for an Infrastructure Skills Plan.
Dr Hillary Levers of Engineering UK also pointed to research showing that there the pandemic has been lead to a change in future generations’young peoples priorities for what they want from a career, with many more looking for job security and not only the chance to deliver solutions to the challenges faced by society. This is why more than ever, the Government needs to publish its long-term vision in its National Infrastructure Plan.
Speaking on behalf of ICE, Professor Jim Hall said:
“Amidst the urgency of economic recovery from Covid-19, we should not lose sight of the fact that providing sustainable and resilient infrastructure requires long-term thinking and planning.
“Infrastructure faces many challenges, including the need to reduce carbon emissions to net zero, build resilience to climate-related shocks and provide quality services to a growing and ageing population whose behaviour is changing.
“As civil engineers, we understand the imperative need to lower carbon emissions, and have the skills to do this, especially with technology making infrastructure smarter and more responsive to people’s needs.”
Watch the event in full here.
Professional engineering institutions submit joint evidence on CSR – 30 Sept
The need for a National Infrastructure Strategy has been reiterated in a joint submission, put forward by the National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC) today.
The submission, which is in addition to the Institution’s individual submission outlined the need for a strategy that directly addresses the recommendations made by the National Infrastructure Commission in its 2018 assessment and in its subsequent work on resilience, regulation, renewables and the 2050 net-zero target.
The Institution fed in views and evidence to the submission as part of the NEPC partnership, which is comprised of 43 of the UK’s eminent engineering organisations. The joint submission emphasises the need for long-term plan for the UK’s infrastructure networks. Alongside it, the NEPC has published a letter to the Chancellor which sets out the four key areas innovation; education and skills; net-zero and infrastructure that are covered in the submission and can be read here.
The sumbission backs ICE’s long-standing position that this will provide the construction supply chain and investors in infrastructure with the confidence to forward plan business activities with more certainty; ensuring that the public gets the infrastructure that it needs now and well into the future.
Read the NEPC submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review
ICE submits representation to Comprehensive Spending Review - 29 Sept
The Comprehensive Spending Review is an opportunity for the government to state its priorities, set out crucial funding and financing plans, and take the lead on delivering a net-zero future.
In its representation to the government’s review, published today, ICE sets out the five key components needed to maximise the delivery of sustainable outcomes through infrastructure.
Chris Richards, ICE Director of Policy discusses more about the submission over on the Infrastructure Blog
. You can read the full submission here
ICE gives evidence to Parliamentary inquiry on infrastructure - 24 Sept
The need for long-term clarity and certainty on the Government’s priorities for infrastructure was outlined by industry leaders yesterday.
Paul Sheffield, ICE President, alongside the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and National Infrastructure Commission, gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, as part of its inquiry on infrastructure.
In response to questions from the Committee, Sheffield and the other witnesses outlined why a National Infrastructure Strategy was essential in allowing the sector to deliver the infrastructure necessary for a sustainable future. They also discussed topics including the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda, the impact of Covid-19 on infrastructure priorities, incentivising private finance and the 2050 net-zero target.
In his latest Presidential Blog, Paul Sheffield further outlines what he discussed at the Committee . You can also watch the full session again on Parliament TV.
Government “kicking the can down the road on infrastructure decisions” – 22 Sept
The government is “kicking the can down the road on infrastructure systems”, the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury has said.
Speaking at the Labour Party conference, Bridget Phillipson MP said the government’s delayed response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s 2018 assessment was adversely impacting the economy.
Phillipson was speaking as part of a fringe event, jointly hosted by the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Royal Academy of Engineering, IET and Engineering UK discussing engineering priorities for the Comprehensive Spending Review.
ICE Council member Blessing Danha was also on the panel. She said:
“In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s easy to forget the existing challenges we’re still facing. With a population set to reach 75million in the coming decades, our legally binding target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and clear regional inequalities, brought into stark contrast by the Covid-19 lockdown – we need action. Maximising the use of the UK's infrastructure to support sustainable outcomes in all of these areas should be the driving force behind the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.”
The importance of a Comprehensive Spending Review – 21 Sept
Throughout the past year, the Government has repeatedly talked up the role of infrastructure in boosting the economy, particularly in areas of the country that have previously been overlooked for investment.
The Institution hopes to see details included within the CSR that will take a long-term approach to infrastructure planning and spending. Such commitments will help set the UK on a path to maximise the use of the UK’s infrastructure system to support sustainable outcomes for the infrastructure sector and society.
In particular, ICE hopes to see investment decisions driven by a joined-up, evidence-based National Infrastructure Strategy; progress on addressing the policy trade-offs that are needed to ensure the UK’s infrastructure system plays its full role in transitioning to net-zero; a levelling-up strategy that focuses on building regional capability to identify, finance, fund and deliver their own infrastructure requirements; and a focus on whole-system change in how infrastructure is delivered and a move away from tactical, project by project, approaches to achieving better, faster and greener delivery.
Chris Richards, ICE Director of Policy, said: “While, of course, Covid-19 has changed things, the UK’s overall long-term infrastructure drivers and challenges remain the same. Our population will continue to grow, we must adapt in order to achieve the 2050 net-zero target, and our entrenched regional inequalities must be addressed. These areas must remain the priorities for infrastructure investment, which we hope to see reflected in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.”
In August, Chris Richards outlined the five key things to look out for in the CSR. You can also read about the next steps following our six-week consultation on the ‘levelling-up’ agenda.
Covid-19 has certainly had an impact on infrastructure systems, and some important changes will need to happen to ensure future infrastructure provision is sufficient.