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With just over a week until Rishi Sunak, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer’s, gives his first Budget, there is still little detail on what to expect, says Eddie Tuttle.
At this stage we usually see a comprehensive list of the spending changes we expect to see as well as pointers on the Chancellor’s primary focus. But one thing that is for certain is that the government seems prepared to loosen its purse strings on austerity.
December 2019’s Queen’s Speech included a commitment to spending £100bn on infrastructure. While this is a welcome investment for the construction industry, which relies on both government and business investment, it is not yet clear whether the spending is for new projects or will cover existing projects as well.
Given the government’s documented support for more digital and modern methods of construction (MMC) we expect further detail on how it will utilise these to reach agreed carbon reduction targets and increase productivity. Additional investment is welcome in the construction and infrastructure sectors, but detail on the government’s focus is needed to help the sectors plan workloads. With rumours about a new construction strategy and infrastructure strategy looming, we want to see a routemap for how additional spending will be utilised and how it plans to engage with the sectors to deliver change.
We need to ensure that there is a partnership between the construction industry and government. Any future strategy should not focus on arbitrary targets for the construction industry to achieve as history has shown this is typically unattainable. We, as a professional body, need to help educate policymakers on smarter ways to utilise the industry to help tackle numerous socio-economic issues that the country faces, whether that is the quality of our built environment or rebalancing and pushing for greater regional investment.
Our recent report, The Real Face of Construction 2020, helps educate policymakers on how the construction industry is structured and how it can be used effectively to deal with numerous domestic issues. We encourage the Chancellor to work with the industry in a collaborative manner.
We welcome increased investment in the sector but emphasise that construction activity is not all about high profile, large infrastructure projects. Investing in more housing repair and maintenance and road repairs is a fantastic opportunity to improve everyone’s day to day activities whilst improving the quality and performance of our existing housing stock.
The Chancellor’s Budget will be delivered on Wednesday 11 March. We will be publishing a summary document on the day for all issues affecting the construction industry and wider built environment as well as our initial thoughts.
Eddie Tuttle is CIOB director for policy, research and public affairs