Sir John Armitt speech to Cities Summit

Published: 11 Sep 2019

By: NIC

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Portrait of Sir John Armitt

Commission Chair Sir John Armitt addressed Metro Mayors and other city leaders from around the country who came together at a Cities Summit today – as part of our cities programme – to make the case for greater autonomy over transport decisions and long-term funding for cities, as set out in the National Infrastructure Assessment.


“Good morning everyone.

I’m John Armitt, the Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission.

Thank you for joining me in London for this great event in the history of our cities. I know many of you have travelled a considerable distance to be here.

This is by no means the beginning of our work together – it is an important milestone which has been over a year in the making. I am grateful to everyone in this room who has been helping to make the case for the vision set out in our National Infrastructure Assessment since its publication last summer.

We are under no illusions that there are many things which separate you. You represent communities across the country, some of which are divided by hundreds of miles.

Some of your cities are giants, others are much smaller. Some of you can trace your city’s roots back to the Roman era, others have sprung up in the last century.

You span a broad spectrum of political colours.

But today you are coming together regardless of those differences, to focus on what you share in common. Each of you represent people and places bursting with potential.

Among your cities and regions there are entrepreneurial hubs designing ground-breaking technology, that is fuelling the fourth industrial revolution – here and across the globe.

There are centres of science, which are unearthing answers that are helping us to make sense of the world around us and providing solutions to handle humanity’s next great challenge – to address climate change.

There are hotbeds for music and the arts which are breathing new life into Britain’s status as a cultural capital.

There is so much to be celebrated, but ensuring the success of our urban centres isn’t without its difficulties. All of you face tough choices and you must contend with many different competing priorities.

As populations grow, cities are becoming increasingly choked by congestion. From North to South and everywhere in between, transport systems are straining, stifling prosperity and harming quality of life.

Each of you have your own unique issues, but I’d like to name just a few. Manchester is struggling with the worst congestion of anywhere outside London, according to analysis carried out by the Commission.

Exeter needs to deliver higher density housing both inside and outside the city’s limits, while managing a growing rate of people commuting into the city.

And, like many of your areas, the Leeds City Region must contend with a burgeoning population, which is expected to increase by 200,000 over the coming 20 years.

The good news is, we think our National Infrastructure Assessment has the solution.

To unlock the full potential of cities and regions, it calls for ministers to give city leaders greater autonomy over transport decisions and longer-term funding settlements.

We have recommended that city leaders and metro mayors outside London should get £43 billion of additional funding on top of current spending levels between now and 2040.

This would enable you as city leaders to develop and implement integrated strategies to deliver public transport schemes that help to provide much-needed new homes and unlock job opportunities.

But the consensus around our recommendations has not just built among city leaders. This is something that businesses want too.

They see the benefits that game-changing connectivity within cities would bring.

I’m delighted that we have many respected representatives from regional and national business here today and you will have an opportunity to hear from them soon.

The government is yet to respond to our recommendations, but now we have had confirmation that it will do so in the autumn through the UK’s first-ever National Infrastructure Strategy. There have been encouraging signs that further devolution is already on the agenda.

Just three days after taking office, the Prime Minister gave a speech in Manchester in which he signalled that he would give more control to local leaders.

He said “places need power and a sense of responsibility” and that he would “give more communities a greater say over changes to transport, housing, public services and infrastructure that will benefit their areas and drive local growth.”

And, last week, the Chancellor announced £200 million of increased funding for local buses. But today we are demanding a firm commitment for a bold, new vision for urban transport across England.

As the former Mayor of London, Mr Johnson knows the potential of devolution better than anyone. Now he needs to put his belief in your communities and hand over the keys to your destiny.

The National Infrastructure Strategy will provide the opportunity for him to do just that, and we will wait to see what’s in it.

Today we are seeing from you an unprecedented show of unity.

You are coming together with one voice and a powerful message that will be difficult to ignore.

I am delighted that we are joined today by Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

I’m sure many of you will have read with interest his interview in Local Government Chronicle this week, in which he said he was hoping to have the opportunity to do more deals with cities and other types of councils.

I look forward to hearing his views and getting a better understanding of the government’s ambition for extending devolution.

Thank you again and I hope in the future we look back on today as a pivotal step towards unlocking the full potential of our cities.”

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