Here, we round up some of the reactions in the industry to yesterday’s budget, which was notable for a planned increase in National Insurance contributions from the self-employed.
Patricia Moore, managing director of infrastructure for Turner & Townsend in the UK, commented:
“The Spring Budget didn’t have any big or surprising announcements for infrastructure but there was some interesting detail which built upon the chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
“Philip Hammond’s £500m a year plan to boost the skills of the UK’s future workforce through so-called T-Levels and maintenance loans is welcome news.
“The promotion of STEM subjects and Design Engineer Construct curricula are critical for the development of the next generation of infrastructure professionals. The new funding will mean educational institutions and industry will be able to provide more world-class training and clearer career paths.
Unless further detail emerges from the Transport Secretary, it’s an underwhelming Budget for the North East of England’s needs in infrastructure, says the region’s Civil Engineering Contractors’ Association.
Director Stuart Miller points out: “The Chancellor began positively, with talk of investing in public services and improving productivity. However, only £90m has been earmarked out of the £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund to tackle pinch points on roads in the entire North. We eagerly await clarity and commitment on this.
London receives six times more investment per head than the North East. We maintain our region has the skill, expertise and capacity to deliver infrastructure projects that will raise further the region’s GVA and the outstanding productivity that the Chancellor acknowledged in his speech.”
Justin Arnesen, Director, R&D Tax & Grants:
It’s discouraging that the Chancellor has failed to progress his commitment to get Britain building. We are still experiencing a housing shortage and with Government borrowing costs falling, now would have been the perfect time to invest in, and prioritise, infrastructure.
Disappointingly, the Chancellor has also failed to address how he will go about funding the construction industry post-Brexit. Investment alone is not enough and it needs to create bespoke infrastructure grants and incentives and, most importantly, remove the hurdles that companies currently face when pursuing the R&D tax incentive. The Government has committed to a policy of ‘get Britain building’ and yet HMRC is dragging its heels when it comes to approving a large percentage of R&D tax claims from the construction sector.
As it stands, the Government is not encouraging the industry to innovate, to take on new and exciting projects, or to grow. It can no longer promote construction loudly while quietly delaying or obstructing vital funding.
Owen Goodhead, MD of Randstad Construction, Property & Engineering, says:
“The Chancellor’s £500m a year pot for overhauling the education system is recognition the UK’s productivity gap is fast becoming a chasm.
“This allocation of funds is not just about future-proofing our workforce, it’s about reversing the effects of years of putting academia over and above technical vocations and practical trades.
“Today’s jobs market is candidate driven because of an already crippling skills shortage in some industries, putting more pressure on companies to find, attract and retain talent. The housing crisis, for example, is also a STEM skills crisis.”