Cities share good practice for developing local infrastructure strategies

Lessons learned from the Next Steps for Cities programme.

Published: 7 Oct 2020

By: Rob Mallows

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A new toolkit curated by the National Infrastructure Commission is offering advice to cities on developing local infrastructure strategies to underpin improvements in transport, housing and employment prospects.

The guidance seeks to maximise the impact of further devolution of powers and funding to city regions recommended by the Commission, by sharing experience and knowledge between local authorities on how locally developed strategies can be both ambitious and effective.

Working in partnership with local authorities across the country, and in-depth work with five case study cities, the Commission has drawn together common aspects of successful strategies. The eight principles include:

  • Developing a compelling vision that engages citizens, senior officials and elected members and sets the objectives for their strategy
  • Careful scoping, identifying where policy areas beyond core infrastructure – such as health and wellbeing, inclusion, environment and the economy – can contribute to achieving the aims of the strategy
  • Developing strategies in dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders, including across political parties and professions
  • Gathering strong evidence, assessing available data and identifying gaps
  • Being open to the full range of options available to deliver the strategic aims – including considering maintenance and upgrade
  • Stress testing plans to ensure they are resilient to possible shocks
  • Clear prioritization and a pragmatic approach to what is achievable, building on the options and testing process
  • Building in evaluation from the start of the process – including allocating budgets.

The guidance will be launched today (7 October 2020) at a virtual event co-hosted by Centre for Cities and addressed by Sir John Armitt, Chair of the Commission, and Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester. Sir John will tell delegates from across the country: “We’re pleased to have been able to convene a group of pioneering cities who have been willing to work with the Commission, sharing their successes and their challenges for the benefit of others.

Our work with colleagues in Basildon, Derby, Exeter, Liverpool City Region and West Yorkshire has helped us draw together valuable lessons on how local strategies can make a positive difference for citizens.”

The cities programme began in 2018 after the Commission published the UK’s first National Infrastructure Assessment. It was built around a series of events for cities to share knowledge and best practice, alongside in-depth work with a selection of five case study cities – Basildon, Derby, Exeter, Liverpool City Region and West Yorkshire Combined Authority – as they embarked on developing their own local infrastructure strategies. These strategies are all due to be published by the relevant authority over the next year.

Today’s report follows the Commission’s call in the National Infrastructure Assessment for government to invest more in urban transport and offer devolved, long-term funding settlements to all cities. The Commission also recommended that government work with local authorities to identify a wave of major transport projects, such as new tram services, in the fastest growing, most congested cities to enable sustainable growth.

While some progress has been made – for instance an announcement in the spring Budget that eight combined authorities with elected metro mayors would receive five-year funding settlements for transport – the Commission continues to recommend that further steps should be taken to enable cities leaders to develop transformative local strategies.

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