Industry leaders hail Philip Hammond’s budget as a key boost for construction
On March 29th this year, Theresa May made history by invoking Article 50, formally triggering the process of the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. While an understandable sense of apprehension lingers in the air as the UK ventures into unknown territory, there is also a growing feeling that predictions of economic doom and gloom offered up by many pundits will prove largely unfounded. For professionals working within the construction industry particularly, Philip Hammond’s Spring Budget included plans that will be warmly welcomed by many and which help to cast the post-Brexit landscape in a refreshingly healthy light.
Among the most promising aspects of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s budget are the announcement of new funding to build 110 free schools, and the allocation of £103 million to tackle infrastructure issues in the midlands and the north of England. These figures are a good indicator that money is being spent and that Theresa May’s government will be calling on the construction industry as a whole to support their building plans going forward. Hammond also presented encouraging new data which suggests a stronger growth forecast for the UK economy to 2% in 2017 – a percentage which promises a further positive impact upon the industry’s fortunes over the coming year.
The introduction of T-Levels, are a welcome step towards tackling the long term issue of labour supply and skill shortage, which have long been a concern among leading figures in the construction industry. The government will increase by more than 50 per cent the number of programme hours of training for 16-19 year olds on technical routes to more than 900 hours a year on average. This includes the completion of a high quality three-month industry work placement.
In response to the budget announcement, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) stated: “The Chancellor clearly understands that the UK won’t address the productivity challenge unless we rethink our approach to technical and vocational education. T-Levels could be the answer if they genuinely rival A-Levels in the eyes of parents, teachers and young people. UK society as a whole has been guilty of putting too much emphasis on the academic route – this has made it more difficult for vital sectors like construction and house building to attract the talented people we need. In construction, we are suffering from a severe skills shortage and this is likely to worsen once we leave the EU and no longer have easy access to European labour. This £500 million funding announced today for T-Levels is therefore a welcome and much-needed boost.”*
Ian Vickers, of midlands-based firm Wates Construction, added in an interview posted on wates.co.uk: “The announcement of new funding for vital public services is always welcome news and with the investment in new free schools also comes an extra £261m to improve existing school buildings, which is going to ensure that education in our region continues to diversify and improve.
The ripple effects of this investment will be of great importance to the region. With investment in new buildings comes a rise in construction output and as one the UK’s biggest contributors to GDP, our industry is going to play a central role in securing our long-term economic strength. The Chancellor quite rightly acknowledged the need to increase investment in skills training, supporting the recent decrease in the number of young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). The number of NEETs in England fell by 24% between quarter 3 and quarter 4 2016, a very promising sign that more employment and training opportunities are being created for young people. That said, we must keep this momentum going and investments in new developments, such as schools, enable the construction industry to ensure that that this is achieved.”
Overall, Philip Hammond’s budget contains plenty of encouragement that the present government are committed to seriously addressing shortfalls in skills and productivity with the introduction of T-levels, as well as stimulating growth by investing in key construction projects in the immediate future.
*Cited from an article in buildingspecifier.com – http://bit.ly/2nEmxlL