Back to top

You may have missed it in the wake of continued Brexit drama in Westminster, but the National Infrastructure Commission published its first Assessment Report last week.

Infrastructure may not be a subject that sets lobby journalists' hearts racing, but the document contained some radical and welcome recommendations that could make a huge difference to millions of lives.

The report sets out recommendations for transport, energy, water and waste water, flood resilience, digital connectivity and solid waste from now until 2050.

What was particularly welcome was the commission's focus on cities as places worthy of investment. The NIC repeated a point often made by Core Cities UK, that cities drive our national economies.

But it points out that our major cities lag behind the national average in terms of productivity, partly due to poor transport and digital infrastructure.

Recent investment has concentrated on big 'inter-city' transport projects - for example HS2 which Core City UK leaders fully support - but the report rightly calls for a focus in future on 'intra city' routes, investment in the roads, rail and bus networks within a city that connect people to their homes, jobs and places of learning.

This report also contains a welcome recognition that top-down solutions are not the way forward. Its recommendations include devolved infrastructure budgets that would match locally determined urban transport priorities. The report adds that Government should pass legislation by 2020 requiring cities to be given regular five-year infrastructure budgets.

The Commission also says Government should make £500 million a year of funding available from 2025/26 to 2034/35 for local highways authorities to address the local road maintenance backlog.

The NIC also recommend new funding models including Land Value Capture and new powers for councils to levy zonal precepts on council tax where public investments in infrastructure have driven up property values.

It's great to see a body that has the ear of Government recommending a local, place-based approach to a crucial issue. The focus on regional cities as drivers of local economies is also welcome.

The Government has committed to lay the assessment before parliament and must respond to it within six months. It will then set out which recommendations it has agreed to, and detail further work required to take forward the recommendation. The commission will monitor Government progress towards delivering on any recommendations.

As a Cabinet we will also be scrutinizing Government, making sure they fully implement recommendations contained in this report