The Rt Hon Jesse Norman MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure to reveal his priorities for the sector in 2021.
‘Levelling up’ and sustainability will “no doubt” be a key focus for the government’s new National Infrastructure Bank, the minister responsible for infrastructure investment told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI) this week.
The minister, Jesse Norman MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, is also responsible for the new National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS).
There is “no doubt there will be a strong focus on levelling up and sustainability in the way the bank approaches its job,” Norman said of the bank, which was announced alongside the government’s Spending Review in November 2020.
National Infrastructure Bank
The National Infrastructure Bank will replace the UK’s access to the European Investment Bank (EIB) and aims to broaden access to finance and get infrastructure delivered faster.
Norman hopes that over time, the National Infrastructure Bank will provide a focal point of expertise, developing a deep understanding of the sector, the deals it can make and intelligence on future development of schemes.
“It’s not a secret, I’m obsessed with infrastructure,” Norman said at the online APPGI event chaired by Andrew Jones MP, as he laid out the many benefits of infrastructure. These included helping to deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda and the UK’s net-zero target.
Levelling up refers to the government’s intention to deliver more equitable investment in services across the UK, and in England specifically, to deliver better opportunities to the whole society.
The £4 billion ‘levelling up’ fund for regions across England to bid in, to help to pay for infrastructure projects will require more detail in the government’s English Devolution and Local Government White Paper expected later this year.
The minister did, however, comment on the importance of infrastructure in helping the UK to ‘level up’.
In 2019, ICE called for the government to establish Sub-national Infrastructure Bodies to replace the current Sub-National Transport Bodies, that would incorpororate other economic infrastructure, taking into account local infrastructure need. This would create a joined-up approach to help deliver an infrastructure system that works better for the public who live in both urban and rural areas.
Shaping Zero - The film
Through many of the announcements made at the Spending Review, the government acknowledged the need to decarbonise in order to meet the UK’s net-zero emissions target by 2050 and tackle climate change.
The NIS gives clarity on the focus of investment, and the new National Infrastructure Bank will help lower the cost of greener technologies and projects needed to ramp up decarbonisation.
The minister agreed that for policies such as increasing electric vehicle (EV) usage and increasing funding for hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS), all government departments need to work together to ensure that the UK meets its net-zero target.
Infrastructure will also be key to helping the UK to recover from the ongoing economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Norman said.
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