2021 was a good year for England’s Economic Heartland.
In February, we published the regional transport strategy. Since then, our focus has been on ensuring we have the right tools to deliver the strategy’s ambitions and policies so that our transport system plays a leading role in supporting sustainable economic growth in the region.
The transport strategy is ambitious. In 2022, I want our focus to be on delivering actions and securing the investment that can help further deliver the strategy.
Over the next 12 months, EEH will focus on bringing forward infrastructure priorities. This means securing the investment we need; moving priorities forward from ambitions into investable propositions; and ensuring public funds are spent well.
To support this, EEH will begin the creation of a ‘centre of excellence’ to provide capacity and capability for partner authorities across some of the core areas of major scheme delivery. We will also continue our programmes of work that provide the evidence to inform how we take forward delivery of the transport strategy.
Through this blog I aim to keep you updated on EEH’s work as it progresses during 2022.
For my first blog of 2022 I wanted to focus on reducing emissions from transport, which will be central to all our work during the year ahead.
I met with the minister responsible for net zero transport, Trudy Harrison, in December. Our discussion left me optimistic. I was greatly encouraged by the Minister’s enthusiasm for delivery and the need for us to work collaboratively to plan programmes of work which will meaningfully support the UK’s transition to net zero. She conveyed a real sense of urgency on behalf of the government and a shared focus on getting things done.
Trudy Harrison was clear: sub-national transport bodies, such as EEH, are a core part of the solution when it comes to planning for net zero. The government understands that there is no uniform approach. Each place has their own role to play in planning the way communities are travelling and connecting while reducing their impact on the environment.
The Minister encouraged EEH – which leads on planning for net zero on behalf of the seven STBs – to continue to work collaboratively with our colleagues across the country, alongside the DfT and the private sector. She recognises that government can utilise STBs’ knowledge and expertise as it takes forward the commitments set out in its net zero strategy.
Looking to the year ahead, there are three key opportunities to realise this collaborative approach.
Firstly, local authorities working with their STBs to understand their individual needs, and the types of interventions their specific places will require. By working through STBs, local authorities can share their ideas, collaborate across boundaries and escalate issues where they need unblocking.
Secondly, government providing local authorities with certainty about their role and funding. There needs to be a single long-term, cross-departmental fund for local transport solutions that play a key role in delivering a net zero transport system.
Thirdly, in planning for the longer term, we need the transportation sector to be working with government now on a new way of planning and paying for transport in the future. This cannot be left to local areas to decide. To ensure a level playing field for all and avoid an inconsistent, piecemeal approach, it must be nationally led.
From the meetings I chair with political leaders across the Heartland, through to the discussion I had with the Minister, I am confident that there is both the enthusiasm and the desire to make significant progress on all three of these issues during 2022.
Together, we can make this a year which is remembered for positive, tangible actions that follow-up on the foundations laid during 2021.
Wishing you a Happy New Year.
Cllr Richard Wenham
Chair, England's Economic Heartland