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Posted by James Driver on 6th Feb 2018

Published today by the Institute for Government, How to transform infrastructure decision making in the UK is the final publication in a programme of work from the IfG that seeks to bolster the UK’s performance in delivering infrastructure.

The report recommends that the Government:

  • create an infrastructure strategy for the entire country
  • improve the way it uses cost benefit analysis and develop evidence for finance options
  • establish a Commission for Public Engagement to involve local communities in major projects and give the National Infrastructure Commission Qreater independence.

Commenting on the report David Thomson Head of External Affairs at APM said:

 “This is an essential report for those who believe that good project management can drive efficiency and effectiveness within government in the wider public interest. The three pronged proposals on long term planning, better financing and engaging the public are all vital - but the one that strikes a chord is the idea for a national committee for public debate. Whilst this needs fleshing out it offers a real step-change for the initiation and ongoing public debate over infrastructure projects”.

The call for the creation of a national committee for public debate represents an innovative lever to engage ahead of and during major projects. France and the Netherlands already demonstrate the effectiveness of engaging early with the public and the contribution they can make when in support of a project. This is consistent with APM research on the Conditions for Project Success [2015]. However for this to be viable a long term strategy and timely engagement is vital; a requirement  made throughout the report.

“The UK desperately needs an infrastructure strategy to address regional inequalities, worsening productivity levels and the housing crisis said Nick Davies, Associate Director at the Institute for Government.

The National Infrastructure Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment of the infrastructure needs of the nation over the next 30 years is key asset in providing a foundation on which to build cross-party agreement on future infrastructure investment. However the report states that the NIC must improve the public’s awareness of this work as it will have a tangible impact on their lives.

Nevertheless, with eight departments and twenty six ministers all responsible for infrastructure policy, there was no surprise co-ordinating projects across Whitehall into a strategy is a challenging undertaking.

At an event launching the report Mr Davies praised the work of the NIC echoing the report’s call for them to be given greater independence as an executive non-departmental public body. 

The report argues that the NIC should draw its commissioners from a more diverse range of professional and geographical backgrounds to bolster efforts for it to become less London centric.

Concluding the report, the IOG states; “The UK needs a clear vision for infrastructure and improved leadership to achieve this. The Government needs consistent methods for choosing the right projects and finance options, and, as shown by the failure of Carillion, stronger commercial skills to negotiate and manage sustainable finance contracts. Local communities also need a greater input into infrastructure decision making”.

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