Log in | Register

Comprehensive Spending Review reaction: Infrastructure and devolution

Words: Laura Edgar
Spaghetti Junction

Chancellor George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review detailed how the government would invest over £100 billion in infrastructure while the Cardiff Capital Region and Glasgow and the Clyde Valley city deals have both advanced. Reaction to the infrastructure and devolution announcements has been collated here.

Devolution will give more flexibility


Alexandra Jones, chief executive at think tank Centre for Cities, welcomed the government’s focus on delivering devolution and addressing some of the “big issues” urban areas face, “such as the urgent need to build new housing and to improve critical transport infrastructure”.

The government’s plans to devolve more powers, including being allowed to retain 100 per cent of receipts from local assets sales, “will give places some more flexibility to negotiate a difficult funding environment and grow their economies”.

Securing long-term growth, said Jones, would require national and local leaders to attract “significant” private sector investment alongside the public funding announced in the review.

“It’s also crucial that as devolution progresses and these investment plans are put in place, more decisions about housing, skills, enterprise and transport are taken at city-region level,” added Jones.

Devolution central to cohesive business destinations


David Pringle, director of property developer NOMA, Manchester, welcomed the announcement of further powers for Northern cities. “Giving Northern cities more power over their futures will be central to shaping cohesive and thriving business destinations,” he said.

Pringle said Manchester was a “leading example” of the power of devolution, citing investment in transport as an example, ensuring that the foundations were laid for a “well-connected and flourishing city”.

Real boon for the UK


The benefits of infrastructure are sometimes “hard to quantify”, but, said James Parker, associate director at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, it would seem like “a real boon” for the UK as a whole that this commitment to long-term investment “remains a central plank of the UK’s future”.

“There were no immediate surprises in the chancellor’s speech, but the continued narrative in respect of infrastructure offers certainty for all those engaged in UK infrastructure."

However, Parker said the cuts to government departments “cast a question mark” over how the public sector would deliver much of this planning investment.

Greater emphasis on long-term required


John Hicks, director and UK head of government & public at AECOM, said that with the Department for Transport’s budget being cut, the challenge now for the government is to play its part in the delivery.

It needs to be ensured, Hicks said, that the people with right skills, governance and procurement tools are in the right place so that housing and infrastructure can be delivered.

“This could be an opportunity for new ways to engage and deliver.” Hicks continued: “Building housing in line with infrastructure investment and development is the key to creating communities where people want to live and work. Greater emphasis on sustainable, long-term planning of infrastructure to underpin economic growth is now needed.”

Opportunities to invest needed


Kristy Duane, partner and head of infrastructure at law firm Nabarro, said the UK could lose out to countries like the US and Canada without opportunities to invest. “A pipeline is no good if it is just a pipe dream. Real opportunities that are seen through to completion are what is needed for investment.”

Duane said Osborne’s reinforcement of the plans for devolution and regional powers would help this.

“Nabarro’s recent Infrastructure Index (pdf) shows “the increasingly important role that devolved government plays. Four of out of the five top-ranked countries in the index have devolved decision-making powers and regional powers are crucial to the successful implementation of infrastructure development. Having elected mayors who have the ability to raise funds for specific infrastructure projects will help drive projects forward.”

Reaction to the housing measures announced in the Spending Review can be found here.