While it may still seem a long way off, we are fast approaching party conference season – and this year’s conference season promises to be among the most pivotal in recent times for the infrastructure sector.

The Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham will be the first major set piece event for the Party’s new leader and the UK’s new Prime Minister. In Liverpool, the Labour Party will be keen to demonstrate that they are a government in waiting. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats will be making their way to Brighton, hoping to show they can offer different solutions to the challenges the UK is facing.

We have set out below the three main reasons why party conference season should not be missed this year for those in the infrastructure sector:

 

  1. It is the perfect way to build a strong understanding of the new infrastructure policy landscape

Debate around infrastructure policy has been a key part of the Conservatives leadership hustings. Whilst those hustings provide an early indication on the direction of travel, Conference will see a new government start to provide greater detail on their plans.

It is also worth noting that what is said at hustings during the leadership campaign is aimed predominantly at winning votes from Conservative members, whereas the new government will be seeking more national appeal at Conference.

Finally, fringe events will allow new ministers and influential MPs to go into more detail about their views and policy ideas – and crucially, provide an opportunity for you to ask questions about the policies that matter to your organisation. Only by being at Conference can you get this level of understanding.

 

  1. Conference will give you a head start in getting to know who is who, and understanding what drives the new government

A new Prime Minister does not just mean a change in who occupies Number 10. It means the creation of a whole new administration.  While there may well be some familiar faces, from ministers, to advisers, to officials, there is going to be significant change in personnel. Conference is the perfect time to build new relationships and crucially gain a better understanding of what the new administration think – from fringe events to meetings.

 

  1. Start to insulate your organisation against political change

While last year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton was a pivotal one for Sir Keir Starmer as he sought to sure up his leadership, this year’s conference looks to be even more critical as the party seeks to demonstrate that it is a government in waiting.

Conference plays an important part in both the Lib Dem and Labour’s policy making process, and what is discussed in fringe and on the floor could feasibly become government policy in years to come.  Party Conference’s therefore represent an opportunity to listen and engage with policy at the early stage, and again, to understand who is driving these policy positions within respective Parties.

 

Copper will be in attendance at Labour Party Conference (Liverpool 25 – 28 Sept), Conservative Party Conference (Birmingham 2 – 5 Oct) and Liberal Democrat Conference (17 -20 Sept). We would be delighted to discuss how we can support you this conference season.

To arrange an introductory meeting or catch-up session while at Labour Party Conference please contact patrick.traynor@copperconsultancy.com , at Conservative Party Conference, please contact pearce.branigan@copperconsultancy.com and at Liberal Democrat Party Conference, please contact imogen.fawcett@copperconsultancy.com.

 

We are also hosting dinners for those in the infrastructure sector at Labour and Conservative conferences, please do get in touch with the team above if you are interested in attending.

Transport for the North is refreshing the Strategic Transport Plan, which was published in 2019, setting out the investment needed to transform the lives of people in the North and level up the country. Even though the North is home to over 15 million people and 1.1 million businesses, the region’s overall productivity still trails behind the UK average.

The Strategic Transport Plan sets out a bold vision for connecting people to jobs, health, education and leisure opportunities – all of which are fundamental aspects of life. To rebalance decades of underinvestment and transform the North, the plan identifies different modes which require coordinated investment, such as rail, roads, smart travel and sustainable transport. Transport for the North is also working on developing a new Analytical Framework that will be able to model future economic impacts based on various scenarios, alongside planning for more tight-knit relationships with the North’s Local Transport Authorities (LTAs).

A key element of the major road network would be to deliver the needs of rural communities, ensuring that the transport networks support access to jobs and education. The Strategic Transport Plan outlines how multimodal strategic investment in new transport infrastructure could support up to £100 billion growth in GVA, which will create an additional 850,000 jobs by 2050.

Copper welcomes Transport for the North’s commitment to sustainable transport, as it is crucial that alongside investment in rail and roads, more is done to encourage behaviour change to increase various forms of active travel. As mentioned in the plan and recently updated policy positions, targeting short trips that could be undertaken by public transport, cycling or walking, and moving people away from driving, is not good only for the environment but also for people’s health. Investing in improved public transport, cycle lanes and walking infrastructure is beneficial to everyone and can also positively impact the footfall in city centres, therefore improving economic growth.

All of this is crucial to achieving the goals set in the document, and should be carefully considered while the plan is being refreshed in a world of changing behaviours and uncertainty. Transport for the North should now consider developing a meaningful and thorough engagement strategy that will enable the body to better understand where the improvements are needed the most to simultaneously boost economic growth and net zero travel.

The body should also consider the most effective way to engage with all levels of local government in a shifting local authority landscape, in light of the recent Levelling Up White Paper devolution proposals. While the plan is about addressing regional connectivity, refreshing the plan will also require proactive and considered contributions by TfN’s member authorities who understand local issues across the region.

The latest Copper Consultancy’s Public Attitudes Research finds that the more an individual knows about infrastructure, the more likely they are to engage with projects. That’s why understanding people is one of the crucial steps to successful engagement – involving both people who will be affected by the changes, as well as those who will benefit the most.

Learn more about TfN’s Strategic Transport Plan and the refreshed work here.