Last month we reported that the planning, building and funding of UK infrastructure was a major theme of this year’s Labour and Conservative party conferences. Here we look in more detail at who the commissioners are and what they will be expected to do.
In Manchester, headlines were made when George Osborne announced the creation of a new National Infrastructure Commission, headed by the former Labour minister Andrew Adonis. At the end of October, Adonis’ commission was launched and we found out the commissioners who will be tasked with the job of making sure the planning and execution of vital national strategic infrastructure does not suffer from the inherent short-termism of the parliamentary cycle.
Lord Adonis is joined by seven others who will provide expert, long-term and unbiased analysis of the infrastructure needs facing the UK. They will recommend which projects should be government priorities and will hold ministers to account if they fail to deliver.
The implementation of a new independent ‘guiding mind’ for infrastructure was a Labour general election policy. The Official Opposition may therefore be pleased that the government has taken up their idea. Labour will, however, be less pleased that Mr Osborne has poached one of their own as the Commission’s new chair, and Sir John Armitt, who the party hired to carry out a review of national infrastructure policy, as one of its first commissioners.
The Commission has started work already, and will be underpinned with a statutory status at a later date. At the beginning of each parliament it will be expected to provide an unbiased, long-term assessment of the country’s current infrastructure needs and how these can be addressed. It will also have the ability to commission research and call for evidence from public and private sector bodies.
The chancellor has tasked Adonis et al to look first at three issues in particular: transport infrastructure for the north of England; transport in London; and how to better balance energy demand and supply ‘future-proof’ energy infrastructure. The commissioners will be publishing their advice on these issues before the Budget 2016.
1. Future investment in the north’s transport infrastructure
First the Commission will work with the Department for Transport, Transport for the North and its member authorities to identify options for future investment in transport infrastructure in the North over the next 20 to 30 years. A particular emphasis will be on improving connectivity between cities and the east-west trans-Pennine axis.
Second, the commissioners will advise the government before the next budget on its view of the future investment priorities in this area.
2. London’s transport infrastructure
First the Commission will review the evidence base and the spread of options for future investment in major transport schemes in London over the next two to three decades, including Crossrail 2. It will then give its recommendations to the government. The question of airport capacity will not be part of the Commission’s remit.
3. Delivering future-proof energy infrastructure
Here, the Commission has been asked to propose solutions to the following issues which look ahead to 2030 and 2050: whether the UK grid is currently operating in a way which fully considers the range of options for balancing supply and demand. If not, its recommendations will be made on what changes are required and whether there are grounds for granting the grid operator more independence; what barriers exist to developing sufficient energy storage capacity; and what level of future electricity interconnection will be in consumers’ interests.
Find out more about the National Infrastructure Commission and their work at Waterfront Conference Company’s event on the 24th February, see details here.
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