September 2021 Director’s Blog

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Last week I was delighted to participate in the fourth Glasgow City Region Infrastructure Summit. This important group is led and hosted by East Renfrewshire Council as portfolio lead for Infrastructure and Assets.

Co-chaired by Scottish Water, the group brings together key utilities for electricity, gas, water, telephone and internet services and provides a forum to share and discuss respective plans. 

Senior leaders from Scottish Water, SP Energy Networks, SGN, SEPA, Openreach, Virgin Media, City Fibre, Scottish Futures Trust, Scottish Government (Planning), Transport Scotland and Network Rail attended along with colleagues from other Regional portfolio groups on Transport and Connectivity, Land Use and Sustainability, and Housing.

Key discussion covered Climate Change and Regional Capital Investment, with speakers on a range of subjects including Clyde Mission, Metro, Climate Ready Clyde and Scottish Water.

This group is an excellent example of successful Regional working in practice, particularly across the public and private sectors, with active participation from all involved and a real collective recognition of the benefits of collaboration. All of this is in no small part thanks to the leadership of the Chief Executive of East Renfrewshire Council, Lorraine McMillan.

To realise our public sector ambitions for new housing and commercial developments (and the investment to realise these) and to grow Regional digital capacity – we need to work more closely with utilities. Joined up working will ensure our plans match the provision, capacity limits and investment plans of the services these companies provide – vital to underpin investments.

A project to digitally map the location of City Deal projects and other major planned infrastructure by our eight councils has provided important benefits to the partnership, the Region’s utility and infrastructure providers, with even greater wins projected for residents. Details collated provide a clear and full picture of where each of our eight councils plans to invest and develop over the next 10 – 15 years. This includes approved housing and commercial developments as well as education and leisure facilities.

Constraints or capacity issues at each location were able to be flagged up at an early stage by utilities, and any pertinent issues that might impact on the delivery of the partners’ respective investments. In a number of cases, phasing of the delivery on projects was adapted by utilities or member authorities to either escalate delivery or avoid unnecessary delays to project completions. This also reduced public sector delivery costs.

The mapping exercise has brought greater certainty and confidence to enable strategic investments to be aligned, and in some cases brought forward – preventing delay and duplication. For residents, acceleration of projects, including new or improved roads, vital new housing, and enhanced utility and network improvements along with less ‘on the street/road’ disruption are big wins.

At last week’s Summit, I presented progress in work to develop a comprehensive Regional Capital Investment Plan where our intention is to collate and make available upcoming public sector procurement plans for investment in infrastructure. This is vital for our local businesses and particularly the construction sector which have suffered from the impact of the pandemic. It also builds on our recent work where in May this year we provided a detailed procurement pipeline of more than £150 million worth of upcoming City Deal contracts, and which we continue to promote locally.

For the new Regional Capital Investment Plan, we will work with the Scottish Futures Trust to make use of their Construction Pipeline Forecasting Tool to collate and map investment data. We hope to make this available in the coming months.

Finally, maximising our collective impact on climate change adaptation and net zero targets was also recognised at the meeting as an urgent and important challenge for us all. There is much we can learn from sharing experience and ideas with each other and identifying opportunities for collaboration and I look forward to seeing this progress.   

Next month Glasgow will hold the 23rd State of the City Economy conference, hosted by Cabinet Chair, Councillor Susan Aitken. The event will focus on Glasgow and the wider Region’s economic recovery and will include a range of interesting speakers. Register for the conference here to attend virtually or in person.

At October Cabinet we will present our new Regional Economic Strategy and share the findings from the independent feasibility exercise for the Energy Retrofit programme Set to be a key Regional initiative with the potential to be five times the size of our £1 billion City Deal programme, it will create jobs, improve the quality of housing, and deliver on our shared commitment to net zero carbon emissions.

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