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Chancellor urged to support ‘once-in-a-generation’ energy and transport transformation

Image: HMT.

Image: HMT.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has been urged to throw the Treasury’s clout behind a transformation of energy and transport networks described as “once-in-a-generation”.

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), has today written to the chancellor to outline how the NIC will judge the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy, slated for unveiling at the autumn Spending Review.

Those tests include a need to look beyond the immediate spending review period and establish expectations for infrastructure funding out to 2050; a firm funding commitment of up to 1.2% of GDP each year to be invested in infrastructure; the setting of clear plans, deadlines and owners to increase accountability, and; fundamental policy changes to inspire a “genuine commitment to change”.

The letter, addressed to the chancellor last week but published today, warns against the strategy only paying lip service to the commission’s work.

“For that reason, the Commission will be looking to engage directly with the key infrastructure departments over the coming months to understand how they are approaching our recommendations.

“You have rightly recognised that the UK’s infrastructure underpins our prosperity and quality of life – but to be sure that it can respond to future challenges requires an ambitious and stable strategy for the long-term,” the letter writes.

The strategy is expected to build on the Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment, which included key recommendations such as targeting for half of the country’s power to be derived from renewables sources by 2030, and the creation of a “truly national” electric vehicle charging network, with subsidies used to promote the development of infrastructure in rural areas where utilisation rates may prevent private investment.

Commenting on the tests, Armitt said that while the government had made positive steps so far, specifically in reducing water leaks and tackling waste, these were “easy wins”.

“Real change is required if we are to boost our economic prosperity and quality of life up to 2050. That requires the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy to be bold and transformative and commit to major changes like devolving funding for cities transport.”

“We’ve put forward a costed plan for how we do that, backed up by a wealth of new evidence in support. We now need the government to step up to the plate and share our ambition to create a bold future for the infrastructure that people across the country will use every day of their lives,” he said.

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