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Mon June 14 2021

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Engineers say regional authorities need more financial freedom

30 Jun 16 A report from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) says that devolution to English regions needs financial controls to be relaxed.

The municipal grandeur of one of our great northern cities
The municipal grandeur of one of our great northern cities

In its State of the Nation: Devolution report the ICE backed government’s drive to move power form Whitehall to the regions, along with the creation of new combined authorities and transport bodies.

ICE, however, added its own 10-point plan to get maximum benefit from devolution. This includes regional authorities having greater access to flexible financing streams to supplement central government funding, with the Treasury thus ceding control of public spending.

ICE vice president Adrian Coy of Aecom chaired the committee behind the report. He said: “It is right that infrastructure investment is the driving force behind government’s plans to rebalance the economy, and we hope to see ongoing commitment to the devolution agenda during the EU exit negotiations, so momentum is not lost.

“Looking forwards, combined authorities must now take the helm and deliver these benefits locally. This will be no mean feat, but with the right frameworks, investment and skills in place they can succeed.

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“We would like to see the restrictions on combined authorities accessing additional financing streams lifted, so they can invest in infrastructure – and skills – that can really transform a region. While combined authorities have the will and powers, their financial means are currently limited.”

Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure at KPMG and chair of the ICE’s northern powerhouse steering group, agreed. “We need Transport for the North (TfN) to be established with the power to develop, fund and implement a regional transport strategy, to deliver agreed social and economic outcomes for the region,” he said. “TfN should be given clear leadership authority and accountability – taking account of the views of its constituent local authorities, but not beholden to them. It should be able to draw up pipelines of projects, and drive investment in the skills needed to deliver them. In short it should have both the constitutional and financial independence to act in the best interests of One North and through its transport infrastructure investment programme drive the creation of a booming single economic region.”

ICE’s report, State of the Nation: Devolution, can be found at https://www.ice.org.uk/getattachment/media-and-policy/policy/state-of-the-nation-2016-devolution/state-of-the-nation-2016-devolution.pdf.aspx

[And if you are wondering about the location of the building pictured at the top of the page, it's Bradford city hall]

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