Review calls for an independent infrastructure commission

An independent national infrastructure commission should be set up to evaluate the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs, according to a report published today by Sir John Armitt, former chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority and ex-chief executive of Network Rail.

By Winnie.Agbonlahor

05 Sep 2013

Armitt called for the commission to be set up “as soon as possible” and writes in his report - commissioned by the Labour Party - that every decade it should carry out evidence-based evaluation of the country’s infrastructure needs over a 25-30 year horizon.

Following Parliamentary approval, the government would then have to produce sector plans, which would be scrutinised by the commission to assess whether the policies contained in the plans are “fit for purpose and address the needs [the commission] has identified”, the report says.

In an opinion piece published in the Financial Times today, Armitt writes that it has been 30 years “since the UK has had an infrastructure strategy, and as a result most projects stop, start, slow or collapse around the political cycle”.

He called for the commission to be set up “as soon as possible”, adding: “lack of certainty scares off investors and stops companies building the expertise and equipment to deliver.

“The permanent commission is designed to win national and local cross-party political consensus, public support and investor certainty for long-term decisions on energy, transport, water, waste, flood defence and telecommunications needs. There is no time to wait.”

The commission would complete its first assessment within three years of being set up.

Armitt’s proposals have the backing from the London School of Economics Growth Commission as well as the Institute of Civil Engineering.

A Treasury spokesperson said: “As the chancellor and chief secretary have made clear, in recent decades we have as a nation under-invested in our infrastructure. That is why the government is planning for the long term, ending the stop start cycle of investment and investing an extra £300bn over course of next parliament, including £100bn to fund specific projects we announced in June.

“The government has for the first time set out a clear strategy in the National Infrastructure Plan, and brought in the former Olympics CEO, Lord Deighton, to deliver it. We have made infrastructure a top priority, despite a challenging economic climate, setting out a strategy for infrastructure in the next Parliament and beyond.  We are getting on with vital plans to develop our road network, protect homes with new flood defences, and invest more on rail than since Victorian times.”

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