Latest reaction to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

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Here’s a round-up of the reaction to Chancellor, Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement. We will be adding more responses as they come in.

UK still behind on infrastructure investment – KPMG

Richard Threlfall, Head of Infrastructure, Building and Construction at KPMG UK.

One number matters more than any other in what the Chancellor said on infrastructure investment in the Autumn Statement: 1.2%.

It is, as a percentage of GDP, the guidance to the National Infrastructure Commission on UK spending on economic infrastructure from 2020 to 2050.

The Chancellor was proud to explain that it represents an increase on the current 0.8. Whilst that may be true, it is still low by international standards, and the continued focus on economic infrastructure in isolation, ignoring both social infrastructure and housing, is another missed opportunity to grasp the bigger picture.

Overall, the UK spends about 2.7% of GDP on infrastructure today. Canada spends more than 4% and China at least double that.

Today’s Autumn Statement felt fairly business-as-usual with lots of small initiatives, all welcome, but nothing transformational.

Tanuja Randery, Zone President UK & Ireland at Schneider Electric

Philip Hammond’s Autumn statement outlined plans to invest in the UK’s digital infrastructure, as part of a new £23bn investment fund for innovation and infrastructure, alongside the promise of £2bn per year by 2020 for R&D funding.

We are delighted with the commitment from the Chancellor for the further investment into the UK’s digital infrastructure. This, combined with the investment in R&D, creates a strong foundation for the UK to expand its position as an innovation powerhouse.

Digital is the future and across multiple industries from healthcare, to food & beverage, to water and rail we are seeing our customers invest in connectivity and data analytics to drive their operating costs down and improve efficiency in people, assets and energy consumption.

We need buildings and cities that are smarter, leveraging technology to become more livable, sustainable, secure, safe and connected. Steps towards digitization are essential for the future of the UK and the growth of our economy.”

Julia Evans, BSRIA Chief Executive

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has delivered his first and last Autumn Statement containing a comprehensive raft of policies that will support both members and the construction industry at large. Indeed, his announcements on housing, innovation and regional and local infrastructure will help business across the UK to invest with greater confidence for the long-term which is welcomed by BSRIA. However, it was disappointing to see no mention of the environment.

That said, BSRIA is pleased that the Chancellor has promised more affordable housing to assist with the ‘shocking housing shortage’. Helping to meet the need for housing is one of the ‘quick-start’ infrastructure schemes BSRIA has been calling for throughout 2016. Members and industry will only really be reassured when we start to see a spade in the ground.

The UK’s housing crisis is one of the biggest challenges we face as a country, leaving an increasing number of people excluded from an ever more unaffordable housing market. BSRIA members continue to report that a lack of affordable homes is damaging their ability to recruit and retain staff; a factor affecting employers in general.

As a society, we need to make sure we are building a range of different homes to suit different people’s needs and aspirations. As such, government should recognise the importance of the Private Rented Sector and work with industry to improve the mechanism between landlords and those who wish to rent – especially around the area of deposits and charging. It was specifically encouraging to learn that fees charged by letting agents to those renting private accommodation will be banned.

The Chancellor’s strong emphasis on the development needs of our cities, regions and nations is a confident and helpful step that sends out the right message for members and the industry based at all points across the country.

Grahame Carter, Operations Director – Infrastructure, Matchtech

The Autumn Statement announcements on infrastructure investment are very promising for multiple sectors within the industry. The already buoyant highways sector stands to gain from £220m of investment for improvements to national roads, the buildings sector will benefit from a new £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund which will be set aside to create 100,000 new homes and the rail sector has been set aside £110m for East West Rail. All of this investment is bound to create a significant number of engineering jobs, and those with civil or structural skills will be particularly in demand.

Matt Pullen, Managing Director of AkzoNobel UK, makers of Dulux paint 

The Chancellor is right to identify the need for more affordable homes as a top priority. His commitment to double the annual spend on housing will help to address the UK’s housing deficit and deliver a welcome boost for the construction industry.

But if we are to continue to meet this country’s growing need for housing, government and business must come together to tackle the skills shortage in construction.

The UK is short of builders, electricians, plumbers, painters and decorators and the industry needs to step up to recruit and train more people to deliver the new housing stock. Our Dulux Academy has trained 1,000 painters and decorators since it opened in March, and aims to have skilled up 10,000 people by 2020. It’s time to address the shortages across the rest of the sector that will slow housebuilding down, by investing in attracting new talent and upskilling the existing workforce.”

Katie Gallagher, Managing Director of Manchester Digital, the independent trade association for digital businesses in the North West

The government’s proposed £1bn investment into digital infrastructure is a welcome move. We are particularly pleased that some of the £400m earmarked for investment in new fibre networks over the next four years will go towards helping smaller fibre providers expand their market presence.

Currently the market is dominated by a small number of large providers which limits the opportunity for innovation. If we are to compete globally, and our infrastructure is to be the ‘gold standard’ envisioned by government, then this innovation will play a crucial part. It is worth noting that currently only 2% of premises have access to full fibre broadband so there is a huge task ahead.

There is still no publicly agreed standard for 5G but the Chancellor’s announcement and commitment of funding to roll out trials is great news. We will be working hard to ensure Manchester plays a part in these trials. The size of our city and the diversity of its neighbourhoods and the mix of businesses here makes us a perfect test bed for new technologies.”

We are in agreement with Hammond that for too long investment has been focused on London. We look forwards to hearing more detail on what this will mean for the North and specifically Manchester.

 

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