CEA Chief Executive, Rob Oliver, shares some thoughts on how the upcoming Budget statement can confirm the importance of investing in construction.
Rishi Sunak’s constituency office neighbours the CEA’s office in North Yorkshire. From our office window my colleagues have seen some pretty impressive sieges of the Chancellor’s local HQ from lobbying interests seeking to push their spending requests up his agenda. The budget statement planned for 3rd March may indicate what success their efforts have had – and the efforts of the CEA and wider construction sector to keep Building Back Better as a key commitment of the Johnson Government.
The National Infrastructure Strategy, published in November, singled out four underpinning aspirations;
- To boost growth and productivity across the whole of the UK, levelling up and strengthening the Union.
- Put the UK on the path to meeting its net zero emissions target by 2050.
- Support private investment.
- Accelerate and improve delivery.
On the last point, the government wants to transform the way infrastructure projects are delivered in the UK. To do this they want wide-ranging reforms from speeding up the planning system (easier said than done), improve the way projects are chosen, procured and delivered, and greater use of cutting edge construction technology.
The strategy document is liberal in using words illustrative of its commitment to, “innovation and new technology”. Part of the CEA’s role is to suggest how best that ambition can be met by manufacturers and suppliers of construction equipment. In our pre-Budget submission we have suggested ways this can be done. First, the level of public infrastructure investment promised must be adhered to, and not be subject to ministerial axes or salami slicers over the coming years. Second, we continue to support the idea of capital investment incentives to unlock private spending on innovative machines and products. Over the years we have suffered from the tardy uptake of new technology from a large part of our customer base. We have seen how government has helped unlock consumer demand for the new generation of motor vehicles – similar forward thinking can benefit our sector.
To keep the train of innovation on track, we believe that the government can also do more with the tax regime in and around the promotion of research and development. Finally, beyond the UK market, we call for a better funded and more imaginative approach to export promotion. Many of our member companies have missed our regular trade missions and presence at major international shows. This hasn’t just been caused by the pandemic, but a lack of interest from the Department for International Trade (DIT) to support the value of bringing suppliers and potential buyers face to face – either virtually today or physically tomorrow.
A positive response to our requests will prevent the CEA knocking on the door of our local MP either “over the road” or at “Number 11”.