Little support for industry in Autumn Statement
Construction Products Association says Chancellor’s announcement contained few signs of support
DESPITE the Chancellor’s promise to ‘fix the roof when the sun is shining’, few signs of support for the construction industry came out of last week’s Autumn Statement, says the Construction Products Association.
Dr Diana Montgomery, chief executive of the Association, said: ‘The cancellation of the fuel duty increase for next year, capping the business rates at 2% from next April whilst allowing 12 monthly instalment payments, all will help.
‘In addition, we’re encouraged by the further investment to promote exports, and the Chancellor’s strong support for increasing apprenticeship schemes together with the scrapping of National Insurance for some under-21’s, which could prove a boost.’
However, Dr Montgomery said missing from the announcement was any mention of relief for energy-intensive manufacturers or changes to the Carbon Price Floor. ‘The supply and cost of energy is as important an issue for business as it is for households, and the lack of attention in this regard will be sorely noted by investors and boards of directors alike,’ she commented.
Another missed opportunity, she said, was the absence of clarity around the future of Help to Buy, the main driver in our industry’s resurgence this year. ‘This, together with the recent diminishing of government support for ECO – one of the only effective initiatives helping to improve the performance and energy efficiency of the existing housing stock – leads us to believe that this important sector both for construction and the wider economy is being ignored at great cost.’
Dr Montgomery continued: ‘We have consistently called for greater clarity and certainty from government in regards to investment in infrastructure, and so we actually were more encouraged by publication of the updated National Infrastructure Plan and the National Infrastructure Pipeline.
‘It is excellent news that government has managed to draw in £25 billion of private investment from insurers at a time when public funding is highly constrained. The key question will be whether it is primarily focused on new or existing infrastructure.
‘Given that the intention is for £5 billion per year for five years, it is unlikely to be solely in major new infrastructure, which would take years in planning and procurement, so it is more likely that it will be a combination of existing infrastructure, schools and hospitals. More interestingly for our members, however, is that it is likely to include housing as well.’
Dr Montgomery concluded: ‘We will continue to remind government that the construction industry is a vital enabler of the wider economy. We hope that the Government’s focus on a ‘responsible recovery’ will not jeopardize UK manufacturing nor the £20 billion per year market for repair, maintenance and improvements, both from a sustainability and an economic perspective.’