National Infrastructure Commission to become a permanent body

The National Infrastructure Commission is to be put on a permanent footing, the chancellor has announced. The move follows criticism from the industry earlier this week when business leaders, including the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce, called on the government to reverse its decision to axe plans to establish the NIC in law.

Philip Hammond said the commission will become an executive agency which will “help plan, prioritise and ensure efficient investment” in infrastructure. The commission “will be given its own budget, freedom and autonomy, set out in a charter detailing the government’s clear commitment to its independence”, according to the Treasury.

The commission will come into force in January 2017 and Sir John Armitt has also agreed to be interim deputy chair of the commission with immediate effect.

Hammond says he wants stakeholders to have a say in how to ensure Britain’s infrastructure is fit for the future and a call for ideas has been launched to inform the commission’s next study, following reports which identified the benefits of Crossrail 2 and looked at Northern transport connectivity and smart power. The next study is set to be announced later in the year.

An open competition will also be held to find the commission’s first permanent chair and new additional commissioners are also being sought to boost current NIC panel members.

Commenting on the move, the chancellor said: “Today I have set out how we are putting the National Infrastructure Commission at the very heart of our plans to ensure Britain’s infrastructure is fit for the future. It will independently define our long-term infrastructure needs and help prioritise, plan and ensure value for money as this investment creates a modern Britain - fit to take on the world.”

Lord Adonis, interim chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “The National Infrastructure Commission was established to transform the way we plan and deliver major infrastructure projects in this country through expert analysis, long-term thinking and strategic advice. Today’s announcement is a big step towards providing the commission with the independence it needs to do the work. Now it is vital that we get the details right to ensure that the NIC has everything it needs to get on with the job.?”

Commenting on the announcement, Association for Consultancy and Engineering chief executive Dr Nelson Ogunshakin, said: “Though the industry is disappointed that the NIC was not given legislative footing as anticipated in September, we are pleased that the NIC will continue its important role as an executive agency. 

“We rest assured that this platform will allow the government to receive the best possible advice on infrastructure priorities due to the strong qualifications of those industry leaders already on the commission. In this regard, the welcome appointment of Sir John Armitt as deputy chairman is particularly encouraging. Sir John is highly regarded by ACE and the industry. His leadership has helped the NIC since its foundation and his wealth of experience in the planning, execution and asset management fields make it highly appropriate to have him involved in achieving the NIC’s objectives. 

“We are pleased that the government has continued to realise the vital importance of expertly guided planning to deal with long-term infrastructure challenges and I am sure that the industry will strive to provide maximum support towards successful execution of the initiative.”

Click here to read the National Infrastructure Commission charter.

To take part in the call for ideas request from the NIC for specific studies click here.

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