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Infrastructure blog

Liberal Democrats publish their manifesto – infrastructure highlights

21 November 2019

The Liberal Democrats have published their general election manifesto. Here we take a look at what it could mean for the infrastructure sector if the Lib Dems are elected as the UK’s governing party and given the opportunity to implement its plans.

Liberal Democrats publish their manifesto – infrastructure highlights
Image credit: Liberal Democrats

Three weeks into the 2019 general election and we've started to see some details from the political parties about what their priorities would be if they were to form the next govenment.

On Wednesday this week Jo Swinson, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, launched her party’s manifesto.

Its 96 pages are on a variety of subjects, with Brexit and the NHS to the fore. There's also an emphasis on the importance of infrastructure investment, a ‘devolution revolution’, and renewable energy and net-zero.

Infrastructure investment

On infrastructure investment, the Liberal Democrats have promised to use the current low interest rates to invest an additional £130 billion package of additional infrastructure investment, which they would use to upgrade transport and energy systems, and to build schools, hospitals and homes.

ICE’s State of the Nation 2018: Infrastructure Investment report explored opportunities to improve the flow of investment and examines funding mechanisms to ensure that the infrastructure, such as those listed in the Lib Dem manifesto, are affordable and viable long into the future.

This additional fund would also be given to regions and nations with new devolution powers to help them to develop climate-friendly infrastructure.

Their promise to ‘kickstart a devolution revolution’ would be done by introducing a £50 billion Regional Rebalancing Programme for infrastructure capital spend across the nations and regions of the UK, with local and devolved authorities given a say in how it's used.

ICE has and continues to be an advocate of the devolution of infrastructure policy and service delivery, which we set out in our State of the Nation 2016: Devolution.

Climate change

Probably one of the biggest issues that has been discussed in 2019 is how the UK and countries around the world tackle climate change. And naturally the election has featured many competing green ambitions.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto calls for 80% of the UK's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. They also plan to introduce a lower target than currently proposed, setting a new legally-binding target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2045 at the latest, bringing the rest of the UK in line with Scotland.

Our insights paper on this issue looks at the role of the infrastructure sector to achieve this, and believes that a step change is required to both reduce emissions and, where this isn’t possible, to offset those that are harder to avoid producing.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto also sets out that the National Infrastructure Commission will be tasked with looking at climate and environmental implications of national infrastructure decisions as part of its remit.

Planning reform

Finally, the manifesto promises to reform planning to ensure developers are required to provide essential local infrastructure from affordable homes to schools, surgeries and roads alongside new homes.

This was a key theme in our Connecting Infrastructure with Housing State of the Nation report published earlier this year.

The ICE has outlined a three point plan for infrastructure for the next government, to ensure that society gets the infrastructure it needs and can trust it will be delivered.

This includes publishing a comprehensive national infrastructure strategy, taking the difficult decisions needed to deliver the net-zero target, and working to improve productivity across the entire built environment sector.

  • Amy Cox, public affairs manager at ICE