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Only a few days after the curtain came down on Labour’s Brighton gathering, we headed to Manchester to put the case for infrastructure at this year’s Conservative party conference.
The four-day event felt very different to our time on the south coast, as the party met for the first time after a General Election win and with no coalition partner to think about.
ICE’s team were very busy, attending 23 events across the conference ensuring we got our messages heard by Government as much as possible.
Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement of a National Infrastructure Commission became the big talking point in many of our meetings. It was great to hear so many people talking about the UK’s infrastructure, especially as ICE has been recommending the creation of an independent infrastructure commission in recent years.
At a roundtable meeting I attended on the morning of the announcement, everyone saw it as a positive step and agreed the cross-party support for the group was encouraging.
Of course, there were plenty of other issues on our agenda including skills, apprenticeships and energy.
Transport also proved a big issue at the conference, with the Northern Powerhouse seeing a lot of discussion at fringe events and debates. This was a great opportunity for ICE to engage with decision-makers on a local level, with this being an important topic for council leaders in the north.
Conferences are ideal for sensing the direction a party’s agenda, but also how their members and other organisations respond to policies. For the Northern Powerhouse, there was clear support for the plan, but many calls for it to benefit regions beyond Manchester, especially rural areas.
After the conference, our Policy and Public Affairs team are busy contacting many of the people we met to arrange further meetings and finding out more on the issues we learned about.
This year’s Conservative party conferences has provided us with a great platform to build on, especially as we begin to work with the new National Infrastructure Commission.
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