Review calls for independent UK infra unit

Sir John Armitt’s review of British infrastructure, commissioned by the Labour Party, calls for a body to plot what’s needed 30 years ahead.

A review of UK infrastructure by Sir John Armitt, the former chairman of the London 2012 Olympics Delivery Authority, has called for the establishment of a new National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to enable long-term strategic decision-making independent of the electoral cycle.

The review was commissioned in October last year by the opposition Labour Party and canvassed individuals and organisations “experienced in the promotion, funding and delivery of UK infrastructure”.

In the final report, the review proposes that the new NIC would look 25 to 30 years ahead at the UK’s needs across all significant national infrastructure and “set clear priorities”, for example in areas such as flood prevention or energy supply.

It also suggests a National Infrastructure Assessment be carried out every 10 years, involving extensive research and consultations with the public, local government, non-government organisations, regulators and other interested groups and individuals.

Furthermore, the report proposes a Parliamentary vote on infrastructure priorities within six months of publication and, within 12 months of this vote, government departments would form detailed 10-year sector plans of how they will fund and deliver these priorities.

Parliament would then vote on the 10-year plans and the NIC would scrutinise the ability of the plans to meet the 25- to 30-year national priorities. The NIC would report to Parliament annually on their delivery.

“Over the last 40 years UK infrastructure has fallen behind the rest of the world and is increasingly struggling to cope with the demands we make of it,” said Armitt in the report.

He added: “An infrastructure fit for the future must now be a national priority alongside education and health and a new independent National Infrastructure Commission is a way of delivering this improvement with the vital support of the public and politicians of all parties.”

“The proposals put forward by Sir John Armitt hold some promise for improving the delivery of infrastructure in the UK,” said Nick Prior, head of infrastructure at business advisory firm Deloitte, in a statement. “However, infrastructure needs to be part of a much wider and longer term economic plan for the UK – it is not an end in itself.”

The Olympics Delivery Authority, which Armitt chaired, was widely praised for its role in successfully delivering venues, facilities and other infrastructure for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.