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Policy and External Affairs update: building firm foundations in shifting sands

09 February 2023

ICE Trustee Jonathan Spruce reflects on the Policy and External Affairs Committee’s first meeting of 2023. 

Policy and External Affairs update: building firm foundations in shifting sands
A crucial part of ICE governance, PEAC works to understand what society needs from infrastructure.

The ICE’s Policy and Public Affairs Committee (PEAC) often operates on shifting sands.

Between meetings in July and October 2022, we saw a new monarch, a new prime minister, and a significant change in the UK’s economic situation.

By the January meeting, the latter two had changed once more!

A crucial part of ICE governance, PEAC works to understand what society needs from infrastructure. We draw upon our members’ expert knowledge to make actionable recommendations to governments, industry leaders, and decision-makers.

Joining our first meeting of the calendar year were two new members, Blessing Danha and David Hirst. Blessing and David have integrated seamlessly into the committee and will undoubtedly be considerable assets to our work.

Key themes for the year ahead

As well as welcoming new members this January, the committee looked to the year ahead and discussed what key themes we anticipate for infrastructure in 2023. They principally centre around:

  • decarbonisation
  • resilience
  • improving infrastructure delivery

The publication of the Skidmore net zero review just before the meeting allowed us to discuss the report’s recommendations and what they mean for the industry.

The committee agreed to use this report to frame specific issues and challenges to pick up at our next meeting.

We identified infrastructure governance structures as a significant challenge to resilience, with areas of responsibility often needing definition and better monitoring.

It’s good, then, that last month the ICE also supported the publication of the Project 13 Infrastructure Governance Code - enabling better decisions to deliver better outcomes.

Finally, building on recent presidential roundtables, the committee agreed that we need to understand how and why some of our international partners – such as Australia and New Zealand – have been able to speed up delivery.

What can the UK industry learn about better accommodating flexibility and uncertainty in our infrastructure pipeline?

Connecting with other ICE networks

The committee’s primary ‘deep dive’ this quarter was into building ties with the Early Careers Network.

We heard from the network’s chair, Ruth Marsden, about their work and priorities, and we discussed how the network might support PEAC through:

  • Sharing the perspective of early-career members on key policy issues, ensuring the ongoing relevance of our work.
  • Providing a ready-made platform to discuss and debate issues affecting younger members.
  • Linking to other ICE committees, panels, and specific regional groups within the network.
  • Linking to international ICE committees.

Finally, the committee heard an update from the Policy Fellows’ Network.

Policy fellows provide day-to-day expert assurance for ICE’s external activities and are invaluable to the committee.

The network continues to go from strength to strength, with 24 policy fellows outside the committee. I’d urge any fellow with the experience and attributes we need to consider joining.

Find out more about the Policy Fellows Network

The committee will next meet in April 2023 – shortly after the Spring Budget, and possibly when we start the run-up to the next General Election…

  • Jonathan Spruce, director at Fore Consulting