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Budget 2020 - Key Pledges for Construction

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Rishi Sunak’s first budget, just weeks after taking up the mantle of Chancellor of the Exchequer, signals a step change in government spending. In many ways the commitment to spending and increased borrowing should come as no surprise; these were manifesto promises (asides from the initial £12 billion set aside for mitigating the impact of Covid-19, which demonstrates how seriously the government is taking this pandemic).

The loosening of the purse strings is, however, only one solution to delivering the public buildings and infrastructure the country needs to remain competitive in the coming years. Below I have taken a look at a few of the key pledges for the sector and the need for us to work more collaboratively and innovatively to deliver economic and social value.

Flood infrastructure funding

Confirmation that the Chancellor will double the amount of funding available for flood defences to protect homes and businesses comes as welcome news. Much of our water infrastructure is from the Victorian era and desperately needs to be maintained and upgraded, but revenue expenditure had risen by just £3m over the last 10 years, according to our latest research. This investment will be ineffective though, unless we think critically about how we work together. Harnessing the knowledge and expertise of our experts and collaborating to operate across boundaries to deliver essential infrastructure must be a priority.

Road and rail infrastructure

Well-maintained road and rail networks are critical to the economic productivity of the UK and our ability to be an attractive destination for businesses and holidaymakers.

Construction businesses are now facing dual pressures - losing staff in the short-term due to the impact of COVID-19, but also in the longer-term due to tighter immigration policy post-Brexit, which will affect project pipelines.

Mark Robinson

SCAPE chief executive

The need to address our skills shortage in the construction sector is a matter of urgency, the impact of doing nothing will have huge consequences on the UK’s ability to deliver vital improvements nationwide. If the government does not take this seriously, we run the risk of our transport networks, truly grinding to a halt.

Plans to ‘level up’ the North

I welcome fresh devolution deals for Yorkshire and plans to ‘level up’ the North. The Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine have been hallmarks of a better way of working – making cities outside of London some of our most important wealth generators nationwide. More power and funding in the hands of decision makers closer to the ground can only be beneficial, by speeding up decisions on major projects as we move to ‘build a better Britain’.

Rishi Sunak’s delivery at the dispatch box was impressive, and in the coming months we will see if the government’s ability to deliver on these promises matches up. The economic implications of both our departure from the EU and Covid-19 are going to become clearer over the coming months. With another budget scheduled for the autumn, we can expect more spending from this Conservative government, but this must translate into the projects we need, where we need them.

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