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Message from the editor | Issue 06 | November 14

Prime Minister David Cameron highlighted five challenges for government during his speech to the CBI annual conference in November. 

These included controlling the cost of government, boosting enterprise and the private sector, getting Britain back to work and investing in infrastructure.

His fifth and final challenge was rebalancing the economy - tackling the debilitating north-south divide that has seen just one post-recession job created in the Midlands or the North for every ten in the south of England.

“That isn’t good enough,” he said. “I want us to build a recovery and an economy that is rebalanced between north and south and frankly rebalanced between services, finance and manufacturing and technology and exporting.”

The shift in thinking has been stark and prompted in no small measure by the on-going devolution agenda and local empowerment and engagement via Local Enterprise Partnerships and the promise of more regional mayors.

As this month’s “Catalyst for change” cover article highlights, major national infrastructure projects like HS2 very much hold the key to meeting this challenge and city leaders across the UK now understand this. 

They understand that effective connectivity across the nation’s major towns and cities, to and from the capital to link major interchanges and ports, is critical to attracting investment, stimulating growth, jobs and better lives. 

Yet while there is no doubt that investment focus to create the desired “regional economic power houses” is vital, it is also clear that a modern, efficient and competitive capital city is critical.

It hasn’t always been the case. For too long major infrastructure projects focused on or touching London were seen by the regions as simply London centric, self-serving projects driven by Westminster politics and the capital’s big business.

The shift in thinking has been stark and prompted in no small measure by the on-going devolution agenda and local empowerment and engagement via Local Enterprise Partnerships and the promise of more regional mayors.

But as InfrastructureUK boss Geoffrey Spence pointed out at this month’s ACE European CEO conference, devolution in itself will not boost growth or create jobs. It can act as an enabler but only with local leadership and engagement to embrace the opportunities that continued investment brings.

Local businesses must therefore continue to drive visions and embrace that investment opportunity if Cameron’s vision is to be met.

Antony Oliver is the editor of Infrastructure Intelligence