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Autumn statement invests in infrastructure

With the political upheaval of the past few months, and indeed the repercussions of Brexit and the pandemic still affecting the economy, the Autumn Spending Review was highly anticipated.

The Autumn statement from Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, was intended to settle the markets and lay out the government’s plans.

With rumours rife prior to the statement, that several large infrastructure projects could possibly be stalled or cut altogether, the Chancellors statement helped reassure the construction industry.

Sizewell C was rubber-stamped, as was the HS2 line to Manchester and Northern Powerhouse Rail, together with road and rail improvement packages, broadband rollout and wind turbine delivery which all received funding.

The key words from Mr Hunt’s statement were balance, stability, and growth. He said amongst unprecedented headwinds they must deliver a plan to rebuild the economy. That it’s not just the UK suffering but many global economies are struggling with the energy crisis and pandemic recovery.

The government is aiming to restore stability to the economy, protect high-quality public services and build long-term prosperity for the United Kingdom. The spending review comes as the OBR forecasts the next eight years of growth will be wiped out by the looming recession.

In light of the energy crisis and soaring bills, one of the Chancellor’s tasks was to both reassure citizens that they will get the help needed and that there is a plan in place to assure Britain’s energy future.

Therefore on top of the green-light for a number wind and energy projects, the Chancellor also announced that a taskforce would oversee an initiative to insulate homes and upgrade boilers, and would receive extra funding between 2025 and 2028,

In response, Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, the national trade body representing UK rail suppliers, said: “Whilst we welcome the Government’s announcement today, we urge the Government to simply deliver what it says it is going to deliver. The industry still needs clarity on the details, including on all elements of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, and sight of the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline, which still hasn’t been updated in over three years.

“While we welcome the Chancellor’s decisions, it is concerning that capital budgets will seemingly not rise as planned after 2024. RIA will of course monitor to see that the rail renewals budget is maintained too, to ensure there is no deterioration in the network. To deliver both transformational major projects for the future and to protect today’s railway, the industry needs the Government to commit to a long-term investment package beyond 2024”

Kevin Minton, Chief Executive of the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) said: “In what will be challenging economic times, it is welcome that the government has committed to Hinkley Point C, HS2, the East West rail link and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“This echoes our call for the Autumn Statement to provide stability and confidence for the construction sector, utilising construction as a driver of economic growth.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB said: “The FMB welcomes the strong focus on energy efficiency with the creation of a new Energy Efficiency Task Force (EETF) and an extra £6Bn in funding. The industry stands willing and ready to help improve the energy efficiency of our existing buildings and will be looking to be an active partner in the Task Force.”

“It is disappointing that no direct mention was made about the need to of boost housing supply at a time when we need more homes or to reform the planning system which is holding back development.”

Meanwhile, the Association for Project Management (APM) has welcomed the announcements around energy, infrastructure and innovation in the UK Government’s latest budget, which will put projects in these areas at the forefront of driving economic growth.

APM’s Chief Executive, Professor Adam Boddison, said: “The emphasis of the Budget is very much on achieving growth through projects in energy, infrastructure and innovation. We welcome this recognition and the investment that accompanies it.

“We believe that projects will be the key to unlocking economic growth and delivering benefits for society. The success of this budget must therefore be judged not against tomorrow’s headlines but on its impacts on projects and programmes delivering real benefits to people, at both local and national level.”

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