‘Underwhelming for construction’: industry reacts to Hunt’s Budget

“Hugely disappointing”, “unclear”, “underwhelming”… The construction industry has been left lukewarm by the lack of clarity around some of the sector’s key concerns in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement. Here’s a roundup of reactions.

Hunt autumn statement
On 22 November, chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivered his Autumn Statement alongside an updated economic forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility (Image: Gints Ivuskans via

Eddie Tuttle, director of policy, external affairs and research at CIOB

“While CIOB welcomes the government’s commitment to invest £50m in apprenticeships for key sectors like engineering, it is unclear whether the construction sector more generally is included in this investment, particularly when shortages are prevalent and have been highlighted across the industry.

“We were also interested to hear the chancellor’s plans to extend national insurance relief for employers who take veterans on their payroll. While we support the importance of this scheme, we would also be keen to understand if it could be extended to include relief for organisations which take on ex-prisoners as employees, for example.

“Ministry of Justice figures state just 17% of people with criminal convictions get a job within a year of release from prison and CIOB believes relieving national insurance for employers recruiting ex-offenders could go a long way in increasing this figure.”

Dr David Crosthwaite, chief economist at the Building Cost Information Service

Mugshot of a man looking at the camera

“It’s hugely disappointing that the government hasn’t addressed the built environment contribution to carbon emissions.”

Dr David Crosthwaite, chief economist, BICS

“In light of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central forecast being downgraded, the Autumn Statement was really quite underwhelming for the construction industry, which has been crying out for some clarity, commitment and consistency in policies.

“Investment in infrastructure, and removing barriers to private sector investment, is hugely important to driving economic growth. With the Autumn Statement, construction firms operating in an uncertain market have simply had that uncertainty prolonged yet again.

“As BCIS recently launched the Built Environment Carbon Database, to unite the industry in making the measurement and reporting of whole-life carbon assessments consistent, and as we approach COP28 next week, it’s hugely disappointing that the government hasn’t addressed the built environment and other sectors’ significant contribution to carbon emissions. Ambitions to reach net zero continue to be hampered by a lack of mandate for reporting at government level.”

Graham Harle, chief executive, Gleeds

“This was an autumn statement by a government that appears to have little insight into the challenges faced by those working in property and construction, having shuffled 16 housing ministers in 13 years and just cancelled HS2.

“Of the measures announced, full expensing is to be welcomed, but is only helpful if you have projects requiring you to buy plant and machinery. It doesn’t help firms struggling to make a profit, or investing in people.

“It’s all jam tomorrow and while planning reforms sound appealing, they take time to implement and may not be supported by any future government.”

Colin Wood, chief executive (Europe and India), Aecom

“The lack of any new meaningful investment [in infrastructure] to boost the UK’s pipeline is disappointing. Infrastructure is, after all, the foundation for wider economic growth.

“Undoubtedly, decarbonisation will be the built environment sector’s defining opportunity for growth. Decarbonisation of the UK’s building stock will play a critical role in reaching net zero. With no dedicated new measures to support this transition and with the private sector expected to take the lead, the certainty of full tax relief on plant and machinery investment provides some support.

“Permanent full expensing enables UK plc to invest with confidence, not just in the development and retrofit of buildings but also on newer technologies, particularly in the renewables market.”

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