National Infrastructure Bank opens to support investment in digital

Written by Beckie Smith on 21 June 2021 in News

New institution based in Leeds will have £12bn to invest

Credit: Cosmix from Pixabay

The National Infrastructure Bank has officially opened its doors in Leeds with a brief to become a long-lasting, flexible and adaptable institution leading investments in areas including digital and technology.

The bank, which opened at The Embankment, an office building near Leeds rail station, will work with local government and the private sector to boost investment for infrastructure projects. It will focus on driving regional and local economic growth and supporting projects to tackle climate change. While it will support investment across a range of sectors, it will prioritise clean energy, transport, digital, water and waste.

To accompany the opening last week, the Treasury published a framework document setting out the bank’s objectives and relationship with government. The objectives include generating a positive financial return; achieving policy objectives to tackle climate change and support regional and local economic growth; and reducing barriers to investment.

The bank must also aim to become a “long-lasting institution and able to provide long-term patient capital through its investments” and “will have flexibility to adapt and respond to evolving market conditions to enable it to deliver on its mandate”, the document added.

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The bank will take the form of a company limited by shares, with the Treasury solicitor – currently Susanna McGibbon – acting as sole shareholder.

Opening the bank, chancellor Rishi Sunak said it will “accelerate our ambitions for tackling climate change and levelling up, while creating new opportunities across the UK as part of our Plan for Jobs”.

“Through the bank, we are investing billions of pounds in world class infrastructure that will support people, businesses and communities in every corner of the UK,” the chancellor added.

Sunak also hosted a roundtable to mark the opening with its senior leadership including Chris Grigg, the former British Land chief executive who will chair the bank. Grigg has been advising the Treasury on the design of the infrastructure bank ahead of the opening, since being appointed chair in December.

“The new UK infrastructure bank is open for business. I am delighted to be leading this institution, which will be a catalyst for investment to support regional economic growth and net zero ambitions,” Grigg said yesterday. “I look forward to building strong partnerships with project sponsors, institutions and local leaders.”

As announced at the Spring Budget, the bank will have an initial £12bn of capital to deploy. It will be able to issue £10bn of government guarantees, which the Treasury said would help to unlock more than £40bn of investment.

The opening was welcomed by local business and local government leaders. Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan called the launch a “positive signal that the bank is moving at pace and there is a strong fit with plans for investment in clean energy, transport and housing in Leeds and the north”.

And Amanda Beresford, president of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce, said the bank will “be in good company, joining a host of other organisations which have made the decision to locate in Leeds including the Bank of England and Channel 4".

“We believe strongly that access to regional perspectives will help enormously with the government’s ambitions to level up the UK economy,” she added.

As part of its opening , the Bank will publish a framework document which sets out its relationship with government. 

Sunak confirmed Leeds would be the home of the infrastructure bank in the Spring Budget in March – having initially said at the Spending Review only that it would be in the north.

Leeds had reportedly been shortlisted as a potential location for a new Treasury northern campus, along with Bradford and Newcastle. Darlington was instead selected to host the Treasury’s northern presence.

The Spring Budget red book said the bank would benefit from Leeds’s position as “an established financial hub with excellent transport links across the UK”.


About the author

Beckie Smith is acting deputy editor of PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where a version of this story first appeared. She tweets as @beckie__smith.

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