By now we all know the details of the encouraging Boris Promises issued earlier this week, delivery of which is a very welcome prospect for construction in particular and the UK in general, so how has the news been received by the industry? Here is a selection of comments by individuals specialising in various areas of the sector.
Mark Robinson, Chief Executive of Scape Group, (public sector procurement specialists)
“Industry will no doubt welcome the announcements from government today. Construction is a significant contributor to the UK economy and this investment is urgently needed to reintroduce confidence to the sector, accelerate our path to recovery and protect jobs across the United Kingdom.
“That said, it is vital we keep a long-term view. As an industry, we must make this investment count. Every single project must be delivered with quality, value for the taxpayer and integrate green technology that will help us to shape a more sustainable future as we work to recover. To realise this will require collaboration and shared vision across all supply chain partners as we address the challenges that lie ahead.”
Debbie Dore, Chief Executive at APM (Association for Project Management)
“Whilst the Prime Minister’s proposals and emphasis on ‘build, build, build’ is welcome, this needs to be more than a one-off big spend. This should be both a sustainable and sustained approach, and have a strong focus on the requirements of successful project delivery, both in capacity and capability.
“‘Sustainable’ means it needs to have a green thread running through it – focusing on measures that will embed ‘Net Zero’, whether that is investment in things like wind power or infrastructure for electric vehicles.
“It should also be ‘sustained’ in the sense of having both small as well as major projects; regional not just national; a planned pipeline that is ‘shovel relevant’ as well as’ shovel ready’; and finally not just physical infrastructure but broader transformation measures, including digital investment to underpin recovery. Sustained delivery is as important as speedy delivery.
“Finally, this commitment is welcome but must be backed by investment in the skillsets and training essential to underpin this. People deliver projects. Greater investment as well as a focus on project professionalism will be required to support the proper inception, delivery and completion of projects both now and in the future and this should be central to the National Infrastructure Strategy.
“As we have said before, good project outcomes require the right conditions for success. Any ‘surge’ in new projects must be matched by the capability to deliver them with the public good in mind. We have to ensure the delivery of these projects factor in rapid changes in technological innovation and government targets to deliver net zero carbon emissions.
“As the chartered body for the project profession, APM is committed to ensuring that project professionals have the essential skills to address emerging challenges and deliver sustainable solutions. Whether projects form part of plans for tackling disease, building modern high-speed railways, tackling the effects of climate change or planning the construction of new homes, it is important that people have the right attributes and skillsets to adapt and thrive.”
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB (Federation of Master Builders)
“The crushing impact of the coronavirus on builders’ workloads, enquiries and employment, as set out by the latest State of Trade data, sends a clear message to the Government that it is right to invest in construction. The repair, maintenance and improvement (RM&I) sector contributes 32% towards construction output so it’s important this isn’t overlooked in terms of investment.
“The pandemic has placed historic constraints on local builders’ ability to work, train, and earn a living. The RM&I market, the bread and butter for most small builders, has been the hardest hit. Almost half a million people left the sector as a result of the 2008-9 financial crash. The FMB is determined to avoid a repeat of this devastating blow to livelihoods and the building industry.”
“The Prime Minister must use his speech today to inject confidence back into the RM&I market with a cut in VAT. Investment in infrastructure should mean housing too, making it easier for SME builders to build out small sites and bring empty homes back into use. We need a strategy for supporting the retention and recruitment of apprentices into the construction industry.”
“Without these individuals, an infrastructure revolution will not be possible. In all of this we cannot forget the quality and sustainability of our buildings. A national retrofit strategy will help boost market confidence, and unleash the army of local builders waiting to improve the energy efficiency of our homes.”
Rozanne Foyer, General Secretary of the STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress)
“The most obvious conclusion from today’s investment announcements is that BJ is no FDR. His speech lacked coherence and so does his plan. His greatest passion seemed to be reserved for cutting red tape which is all too often code for cutting the rights of workers and reducing environmental standards. He certainly didn’t talk about good jobs and we know from this crisis that bad jobs kill.
“This goes nowhere near far enough to provide the stimulus our economy requires. We need twenty times the ambition. For example, our analysis shows the potential for a two year £13 billion green stimulus package to create 140,000 jobs in Scotland.
“All eyes now turn to the Chancellor later this month. He must act urgently to bring forward a Job Guarantee Scheme, extend the Furlough scheme in key sectors and do what Johnson failed to do today – come up with a real new deal for recovery.”
Mark Beard, Chairman of Beard Construction
“The Prime Minister is right to recognise the vital role construction will have to play in delivering Britain’s economic recovery. Housing will inevitably be a big part of that but the Government is right to recognise too the importance of wider infrastructure projects, big and small, that will help drive growth now and in the future.
“It’s not just about economic growth: buildings, and the built environment, also underpin the social fabric of communities. You only have to think about the role school buildings, libraries and sports centres play in people’s lives, above and beyond their main purpose.
“I’m confident the construction industry will rise to the challenge this presents and focus on delivering high-quality buildings to serve the public.”
Roger Tustain, Managing Director of Nexus Planning
“The difficulty with governmental attempts to overhaul the planning system is that with each major reform (the last being 2012 with the abolition of Regional Planning), thought rarely goes into the practical implications of delivering the system quickly. Major changes and new strategies will take time to plan if they’re to be done properly – and this could lead to procrastination at a local level which impacts on housing delivery. The irony is that radical change to the planning system could in the short-medium term impact on delivering government housing growth objectives.
“Before we change the technical side of the system itself (again), it’d be better to focus on significantly enhancing public sector resourcing in strategic planning – ‘freeing the planner’ from minor/domestic applications, which accounts for a huge number of all applications and can get overly politicised. Local Authority Planning needs to be visionary and proactive at both political and officer level. At present, things tend to be far too reactive and under-resourced.”
Mathew Riley, UK Managing Director of Ramboll (Leading Engineering and Architecture Consultancy)
“Reform of the planning and procurement system in the UK is long overdue and something that the industry has been calling for for some time. It has long crippled the construction sector’s ability to drive activity, innovate and meet its full potential.
The parameters upon which procurement contracts are awarded is still overwhelmingly focused on price rather than encouraging innovation or efficiency. Public procurement processes are particularly problematic, as the opportunity to put forward any added value is extremely limited/non-existent. If the Government want to encourage change then they must provide a clear and immediate strategy, or businesses are unlikely to put investment behind developing better engineering solutions.
If the Government deliver on this promise for reform and investment, then it is our responsibility as industry leaders to provide the right environment for our people to innovate and create sustainable solutions that support and benefit society as a whole.”
Caroline Gumble, Chief Executive of the CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building)
“We welcome the announcement made by the Government for a boost in infrastructure in the UK. Construction is vital to the economy, and it is reassuring to see the Government acknowledge the importance of the sector. This will provide a necessary boost to employment, which is not only essential in rebuilding the economy, but vital for retaining skills and talent in our industry.
“We also welcome the Government’s investment in repair, maintenance and improvement projects, and have long called for more focus on this area of the sector. It is also a prime opportunity to look at building quality and make sure that remains at the top of the industry’s agenda as this has been one of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry in recent years. We hope that this is the first announcement amongst many, dedicated to the improvement of quality standards for our buildings.”
The CIOB looks forward to hearing more detail and will work proactively with the industry government and helps ensure that UK construction can support the path to Net Zero, boost productivity and modern methods of construction, delivering safe, high quality buildings, improved social impact, support regeneration, levelling up and much more.”
Heather Powell, Property and Construction Partner at Blick Rothenberg (Tax and Accounting Business Advisory Firm)
“House builders and the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ appear to be the funders for new homes, not the government. The Prime Minister talked about building better, greener and faster but almost all of the funding announced today was about infrastructure repairs, not new houses.
“He talked about Build, Build, Build but today’s announcement was about Repair, Repair, Repair. While the prime Minister referred to building on brownfield sites and major planning reform the majority of the funding announced was directed at repairing hospitals, schools and colleges, prisons and young offender’s institutions.
“The Prime Minister reminded his audience that his government are committed to delivering 50 new schools and 40 new hospitals. However, to drive an economic recovery he must ensure that that these projects are started now to give the construction industry the confidence to invest in their businesses, and the workforce they will need.
“The level of investment previously announced, if bought forward and converted into spades in the ground, can generate skilled and well-paid jobs throughout the country – but the projects must get going, and contracts need to be let.
“If these ambitious plans are delivered it is good news for the UK economy and our National Infrastructure, but there is still a huge need for new homes. The planning reforms announced will create opportunities for developers, but it would appear that “Bank of Mum and Dad” is still going to be the main provider of finance for these homes. A cogent plan is essential to provide homes for the whole nation.”
Quite a range of opinions, so what do buildingspecifier readers think? you are in the forefront of the construction industry, we would welcome you comments.