It seems evident that our infrastructure requirements, needed to address the UK's overcrowded roads and railways, its lack of housing and ageing schools, the need to invest in new energy supply infrastructure and superfast broadband, all of which will ultimately deliver economic growth, will not come from FDI alone. It won't come from the public sector in the scale that it historically has either, and our indigenous private sector (whatever that means in a global economy) is not very well placed to take up the challenge of significantly increased infrastructure investment. This was the basis of a fascinating debate we had earlier this week hosted by law firm Addleshaw Goddard and attended by several local council leaders, representing the LGA, with its President Sir Merrick Cockell as enthusiastic and motivated as ever, along with a healthy smattering of property luminaries.
It wouldn't be fair to say Government isn't acutely aware of the need for infrastructure investment. Evidently it is. Its Infrastructure Plan, more freedom for using prudential borrowing powers, Tax Increment Financing, the Growing Places and Regional Growth Funds, the proposed power to allow CIL income to be used to leverage additional borrowing without the need for political approval and local rates retention are all examples of initiatives aiming to achieve greater levels of investment in development and related infrastructure, and ultimately the growth that should follow.
The reality is however that the amount of money available centrally is greatly diminished, and will be so for the foreseeable future. The natural conclusion therefore has to be that working together will be more effective than working unilaterally, and that power is currently far easier to come by than money. The agenda has to be to continue to argue the case for more local power and then work with the private sector to identify the appetite for investment from a range of sources to access the finance; then you're probably on to a winner.