A message to you, Rishi

Next week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will announce his hotly anticipated 2021 Spring Budget statement. Against the backdrop of falling Covid numbers but increasingly challenging import/export shenanigans, a persistent housing crisis, tough climate agenda and expensive Furlough Scheme, he’ll be expected to announce some form of panacea.

They say the cure is often worse than the disease. From media speculation, plenty of stick is anticipated, but many will hope for some carrots (even if these are more likely to be of Chantenay than Imperator variety).

Construction and housebuilding have demonstrated a certain degree of resilience over the last year. As Government looks to deliver that essential shot of stimulus to the economy, it’s an opportunity for the sector to play a central role.

So, while the cards remain close to Rishi’s chest, we ask various voices from across the industry where they’d like to see greater investment or policy action.

Whilst we weathered the economic turbulence of 2020, the greater challenge is yet to come and, alongside other parts of UK business and industry, the construction industry needs to put itself in as strong a position as possible to weather it. In part, this relies on tapping into a rich seam of undiscovered talent which exists on our doorstep.” – Adrian Attwood, Director, DBR Ltd.

“A commitment to green-tinted big infrastructural projects should be at the heart of the Chancellor’s statement. There has been plenty of talk about creating a ‘Sustainable Britain’ and Net Zero 2050, yet little defined policy. Projects could range from a strategy to deliver the network for mass EV proliferation or carbon neutral housing, however, I think it all starts with how we generate the energy to service both. Investment in building more green power generation systems should be an urgent priority. Currently, our renewable capabilities are not enough to meet our insatiable, growing appetite for electricity. We need to develop a system which delivers 24/7, not at sporadic points throughout the day. To my mind, tidal is an untapped resource. If this government was truly visionary, and serious about this policy they would look to tap the power of the oceans and the seas.” – Stuart Murphy, founder, TP:Gen24.

“With the Future Homes Standard Consultation, and changes to Part F and Part L, coming into effect at the end of the year, we’d like to see more investment put forward for passive design solutions. Whilst this will be important for decarbonising new build housing, it will be even more crucial for the retrofitting of existing structures and the repurposing of currently derelict ones. This latter type of project presents a huge opportunity to rejuvenate our urban spaces, encouraging densification and protecting our green spaces. It would be encouraging to see the Chancellor set some money aside to fund a programme to transform many of the UK’s formerly carbon intensive industrial districts into world-leading example of green living spaces.” – Steve McSorley, Director, Perega.

“The housing crisis needs urgent attention. Dragging on for decades, this government has an opportunity to tackle a problem which has puzzled governments and blighted society for so long. Previous administrations have been at risk of placing style above substance, allocating funding to building methods which, whilst innovative, are either inappropriate to deal with the current problems or at a developmental stage. We need the Chancellor to allocate more funding to a richer and broader construction mix, new fads are all very well but it’s important not to lose sight of time-honoured, traditional methods which deliver long term value and quality.” – Chris Stanley, Housing Manager, Modern Masonry.

“Cash flow is an important issue for any business be it large or small but given the challenges of the past year, the reverse VAT changes will no doubt bring additional pressure to smaller businesses who have less money in the bank. We’d like to see these regulations relaxed in this year’s budget so that businesses can focus on what matters most, generating income without the stress of cash flow issues to contend with.” – Ben Hancock, Oscar Acoustics.

As you can see, a mixed bag of views, but with some strong themes apparent, particularly around sustainability, technology, skills and the urgent need to get building the cities of the future.

Whatever Mr. Sunak announces, no doubt our handful of industry experts will have a view whether it be praise or criticism. One thing’s for sure, they won’t be short of an opinion and we look forward to catching up with them in the aftermath. Tune in next week, to get their reactions.