Over the last 12 years, capital expenditure on school buildings has risen from under £700 million in 1996-97 to £6.7 billion in 2008-09 and will rise to around £8 billion in 2009-10. A number of capital building programmes in the education sector are now well underway including the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Programme, the Academies Programme and the recently announced Primary Capital Programme to rebuild and refurbish 50% of primary schools.
Universities are also being urged by the government to bring forward spending plans to provide an impetus to the construction industry during the economic downturn. The Higher Education Funding Council for England is advancing £200m before next April to help get £280m worth of projects off the ground.
There are also a number of opportunities in the student accommodation sector to meet the need for accommodation through joint university and private sector development.
While a number of people are seeing the current economic crisis as bad for the industry, this clearly shows that there are some good points and that rather than sitting around complaining and generally being downcast about the situation, what we should be doing is looking for ways to spend our way out of the crisis.
If there is government funding available then now is the time to take advantage of it because although we have seen a dramatic fall in the commercial and private residential sectors, the Government funding for schools and higher education building programmes will provide a welcome relief to many.
It is all too easy to admit defeat and hide in a cupboard when things become tough, but as an industry we simply cannot afford to do this. We need to take advantage of the opportunities which are presenting themselves because otherwise when the economy does return to normal we run the risk of being left behind.
As an industry we need to ride out the storm, take advantage of the money which the Government is spending and ensure that we are in a good position when the economy returns to normal.
See you next month