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Infrastructure blog

ICE’s submission to the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review

29 September 2020

In our submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review, we set out the five key components needed to maximise the delivery of sustainable outcomes through infrastructure

ICE’s submission to the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review
Infrastructure has an important role to play in supporting the transition to net-zero. Image credit: Shutterstock

The upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), expected in late November, will be an important moment in this Parliament for the future of UK infrastructure. Announcements are expected not just on spending, but also on how publicly financed infrastructure is appraised and delivered in the future.

As well as the review we also expect the conclusion of the Infrastructure Finance Review and the Green Book review, the publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy and new rules on outsourcing to the construction sector.

It’s set to be a busy time. It’s also a huge opportunity for the government to state its priorities, set out crucial funding and financing plans, and take the lead on delivering a net-zero future. Net-zero and 'levelling up' will also play a significant role alongside an economic recovery package from the impact of social distancing brought in to limit the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

ICE have been engaging with policy makers, as part of the CSR process, to ensure the role of the UK's infrastructure system is maximised to support the delivery of sustainable outcomes.

Infrastructure has an important role to play in addressing CSR priorities. From achieving ‘levelling up, to economic recovery and supporting the transition to net-zero, the UK’s infrastructure system sits at the heart of the solution to these long-term challenges.

As we’ve set out previously, the 2050 target gives government a once-in-a-generation opportunity to recalibrate the economy and build a net zero future. But we need to ensure the right framework is in place to do this, with a clear focus on infrastructure – transport and energy alone accounting for around 60% of the UK’s CO2 emissions.

Our submission outlines how government can unlock the potential of infrastructure to solving these challenges. For infrastructure to play its full role, the right framework needs to be put in place.

Our submission outlines the key components of that framework which includes:

  1. A joined-up long-term evidence-based National Infrastructure Strategy as the primary driver for investment decisions

    This should be based on the National Infrastructure Assessment and updates since its publication. Our recent work shows that accelerating investment in 5G and full-fibre broadband are the main changes required in the post-national lockdown and pre-vaccine phase of responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    However long-term drivers of demand, which underpin the National Infrastructure Assessment, have not changed. These are population growth, decarbonising and addressing regional inequalities. These should remain the focus of investment decisions focused on the long-term.

  2. A Net-Zero Infrastructure Plan which takes decisions on the policy trade-offs needed to achieve infrastructure

    In particular decisions on the future energy mix, pathways to decarbonising transport and heat, and options for reducing emissions from harder-to-abate sectors. Our recent paper outlines what we can learn from other net-zero plans internationally.

    Taking these decisions will provide long-term certainty which will allow the private sector to support the government's ambition of making the UK as a scientific superpower leading in the development of technologies to achieve net-zero.

  3. A levelling up through infrastructure strategy that focuses on building regional capability to identify, finance, fund and deliver their own infrastructure requirements

    This can be achieved through regional infrastructure strategies developed by sub-national infrastructure bodies. This will strengthen the evidence base for regional investment allowing areas to navigate the decision-making process with certainty.

  4. A focus on whole system change in how infrastructure is delivered with a move away from tactical, project by project, approaches to achieving better, faster and greener delivery

    Progress in this space can be driven by delivering four enablers:

    • Investing in digitalisation to make sure that we get the most out of insights captured from data today whilst laying the groundwork for building digital twins in the future
    • Embedding client-led enterprise-based delivery models based on Project 13 principles as a common approach
    • Shifting to intelligent and outcome-based procurement models across the public sector and
    • Fostering new leadership in delivery of projects and programmes based on a systems integration skillset.
  5. A coordinated approach across Government to achieve real progress

    Coordination measures needed include embedding the net-zero target in the Green Book appraisal process to inform future investment decisions.

    We would also like to see an Infrastructure Skills Plan developed, building on the previous National Infrastructure Plan for Skills, to ensure the UK has the capability within the built environment sector for the transition to net-zero. With the effects of Covid-19 on employment rising, there is a clear opportunity to signal the jobs of the future through such a plan.

Our submission goes into further detail about these areas, and more. I encourage you to read it – and to talk about the suggestions, ideas and solutions in the coming months.

Read the full submission

  • Chris Richards, director of policy at Institution of Civil Engineers