Trade bodies and experts from the built environment sector have voiced their hopes and fears in the wake of the cabinet shakeup from new prime minister Liz Truss.
Quite rightly, much of the attention of the construction industry is focused on the appointment of Simon Clarke as secretary of state for the department for levelling up, housing & communities, and Jacob Rees-Mogg as secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS).
Following the cabinet reshuffle, figures from across the construction sector have revealed the areas they hope Liz Truss’ new government will address.
Continued investment in the levelling-up agenda
Caroline Gumble, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), said: “We want to see the new prime minister continue the government’s existing agendas on levelling up and net zero, both of which can make a positive difference to what we’re sure will be their number one priority: the cost of living crisis.
“The levelling-up agenda provides significant opportunities for the construction sector through local job creation and stability, while property retrofit schemes to improve energy efficiency, for example, will further boost the sector and go some way to helping residents mitigate rising energy costs.”
James Butcher, director of policy at the National Federation of Builders (NFB), commented: “The election of a new prime minister means that the proactive work of government can restart, having had a period of stasis over the summer.
“Liz Truss said during her election campaign that, ‘A recession is not inevitable’, so we hope she will take the opportunity to ensure we have a healthy pipeline for our industry and across all work types.
“We want to see continued investment in major infrastructure, public sector capital projects, housing, and implementation of a national retrofit strategy to support builders in the domestic sector as well as our net zero ambitions.”
Reformed planning laws
Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at NFB, stated: “The biggest blocker to our nation’s construction potential, not least to meet our housing need, is the horrendous state of our planning laws.
“As the former housing secretary Robert Jenrick stated over the weekend, the planning reforms the last government decided not to proceed with were its ‘greatest missed opportunity’.
“He could not be more right; we must have a revolution in planning laws, and that will require radical and bold leadership.”
Paul Breen, managing director at affordable housing specialist Living Space, said: “This is a prime opportunity for a new government to address the unprecedented delays and blockages that are hampering the planning system.
“While waiting lists for quality, energy-efficient affordable homes are at unprecedented levels, we are continually tackling bureaucratic issues that delay delivery of much-needed new homes; Living Space currently has almost 1,000 affordable new homes stalled within the planning system.
“We need more resources afforded to local authorities, and planning officers [need to be] given greater remit to progress schemes that not only deliver vital new homes but, in turn, secure direct jobs and supply chains that maximise benefits to the regional economy.”
Brian Berry, chief executive at the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), added: “We welcome Jacob Rees-Mogg into the role at BEIS and I strongly urge the delivery of a nationwide programme for retrofit to be their number one priority, especially in the face of rising bills for consumers and tough times ahead for the nation’s small, local builders as economic pressures bite.
“While direct government intervention to help struggling homeowners with energy bills will be vital over the coming months, it is ultimately a short-term strategy; long-term, we must improve the efficiency of the UK’s leaky homes and reduce our energy use.
“Retrofit creates a pipeline of work for local builders, opens up vocational training routes, and crucially slashes energy bills.”
Nathan Garnett, event director at UK Construction Week Birmingham, commented: “Construction is a critical part of the economy which employs over two million people.
“The growth of the sector helps drive the economy but, like all industries, it is currently facing strong headwinds that are stalling that growth.
“It is for this reason we hope that the new Liz Truss administration will commit to helping the UK retrofit 30 million homes, helping not just the construction sector, but also consumers battling with high energy prices.
“This also ties in with commitment to net zero targets that the industry is willing and able to meet if given the right support, across projects like HS2, renewable energy projects, and building new nuclear power facilities.”
Taxation, restrictions and policy
Wojtulewicz stated: “Liz Truss has promised to be a low-tax Conservative, and we cannot wait a day longer to see the fruits of that promise.
“The last government put up national insurance contributions, removed the sector’s entitlement to use red diesel, and has added a myriad of levies to housebuilders; it’s high time to roll back the burden on business and give the industry the room to invest in the future.”
Source: Development Finance