A technical training centre between Grimsby and Immingham played host to the government’s official advisers on infrastructure today (23 September) as they launched a new report on how transport investment can best boost towns’ economies.
North East Lincolnshire Council was one of four authorities hand picked to help the National Infrastructure Commission provide advice to the government on its levelling up agenda, and Commissioners visited the CATCH facility in Stallingborough as part of their report launch.
The Commission said the council’s plans for regeneration of the waterfront area, and recent projects such as the Humber Link Road and Cycle Superhighway, show the potential for residents’ priorities to be reflected in local infrastructure strategies in a way that central government is not always able to do.
The Commission’s report says that levelling up towns will require a shift in government’s approach from announcing ringfenced pots of money – many of which councils must compete over – to instead handing power to local areas to deliver their own infrastructure strategies with five-year devolved budgets.
The Commission recommends that government should support local authorities outside London by enabling them to spend up to around £6 billion per year on transport investment in the next five years.
The independent report on how infrastructure investment can best support the needs of different town-sized settlements was commissioned by government in March. The Commission engaged with dozens of civic and business leaders over the course of the study, including in four case study areas including North East Lincolnshire, and undertook social research on town residents’ investment priorities.
This national survey showed that when it comes to infrastructure improvements, almost four in ten town residents would prioritise improvements for motorists such as better road maintenance, while a third would most value better public transport connections to nearby cities and a similar number would prioritise enhancements for pedestrians and cyclists.
The report stresses that infrastructure investment alone cannot be expected to change economic fortunes, and that a range of areas of policy – notably education and skills – need to be co-ordinated in growth plans.
Government should also help ensure new networks and services reach the whole country, including support for accelerating the rollout of gigabit broadband and electric vehicle charging points in towns where it is needed, according to the Commission.
Bridget Rosewell, Commissioner, said: “Levelling up cannot be done from Whitehall. Every English town faces a different set of challenges and opportunities and local leaders are best placed to develop strategies to address these.
“Our time in Grimsby, speaking to Rob Walsh and his team, helped inform our thinking and shows what could be possible if councils were given greater resources to deliver a vision built on local priorities. North East Lincolnshire has been successful at attracting funding for various important projects, but we think that nationally less time should be spent on competing for money and more spent on delivering for people.
“Local councils need to be empowered to deliver transformational plans for the future and held accountable for doing so.”
Rob Walsh, Chief Executive of North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “I’m really pleased we’ve been able to talk with the NIC about things that are going on in Grimsby and North East Lincolnshire.
“There are huge possibilities for economic growth in many towns across the UK but this can only be done with the right infrastructure in place.”
Cllr Philip Jackson, Leader of North East Lincolnshire Council said: “We’ve been delivering plans for growth in and around our key towns, and have much more already in the pipeline through the Towns Fund and the Future High Streets Fund particularly. However, we already have significant growth in our industrial outlying areas, and welcome reports like this to strengthen our case for infrastructure investment.”