Now’s your chance, Chancellor

Now’s your chance, Chancellor

The Spring Budget statement, slated to be announced next Wednesday, is set to deal with a few home truths. The hotly anticipated number-crunching exercise will see Rishi Sunak dealing with a large number of headaches, largely caused in the preceding year.

Mounting debt, EU import/export furore and Covid-19 are just the tip of the iceberg. Add to this education stagnation, a looming employment crisis, affordable housing shortage and a long-term commitment to Net Zero 2050 and you’re looking at a near-impossible balancing act.

The UK construction and housebuilding sector, which skilfully weathered last year’s storm and chartered a strategic course to remain stable, will be watching next week’s speech with interest.

As an industry with the potential to play a pivotal role in the national economic regeneration, housebuilders and developers need assurances that our policy makers will support and invest in future construction programmes, delivering more jobs, boost business and improve society.

There has been an uncharacteristic restraint around Whitehall and less leaking than usual. As such, much of what’s to come remains lightly veiled. However, we asked a variety of voices from the industry where they’d like to see greater investment.

“The housing crisis needs urgent attention. Dragging on for decades, this government has an opportunity to tackle a problem which has puzzled governments and blighted society for so long. Previous administrations have been at risk of placing style above substance, allocating funding to building methods which, whilst innovative, are either inappropriate to deal with the current problems or at a developmental stage. We need the Chancellor to allocate more funding to a richer and broader construction mix, new fads are all very well but it’s important not to lose sight of time-honoured, traditional methods which deliver long term value and quality.” – Chris Stanley, Housing Manager, Modern Masonry

“The pandemic has highlighted the appetite and need for greater digitisation in the construction sector. With that in mind, next month’s budget should provide further support to the sector, which has already proven its role in turbocharging Britain’s economic recovery.

“We’d like to see Rishi Sunak fund an industry education programme in partnership with professional bodies that can provide different industry professionals from businesses of all sizes with greater digital literacy. By doing so, we can shorten the digital skills gap that remains so prevalent within the industry and improve the overall efficiency of work and quality of final builds.

“Unlocking the power of digital construction technology universally will make this process easier and deliver positive results faster.” – Ibrahim Imam, Co-founder & Co-CEO of PlanRadar

“With the Future Homes Standard Consultation, and changes to Part F and Part L, coming into effect at the end of the year, we’d like to see more investment put forward for passive design solutions. Whilst this will be important for decarbonising new build housing, it will be even more crucial for the retrofitting of existing structures and the repurposing of currently derelict ones.

“This latter type of project presents a huge opportunity to rejuvenate our urban spaces, encouraging densification and protecting our green spaces. It would be encouraging to see the Chancellor set some money aside to fund a programme to transform many of the UK’s formerly carbon intensive industrial districts into world-leading example of green living spaces.” – Steve McSorley, Director, Perega

“Cash flow is an important issue for any business be it large or small but given the challenges of the past year, the reverse VAT changes will no doubt bring additional pressure to smaller businesses who have less money in the bank. We’d like to see these regulations relaxed in this year’s budget so that businesses can focus on what matters most, generating income without the stress of cash flow issues to contend with.” – Ben Hancock, Managing Director, Oscar Acoustics

Plenty of food for thoughts and, fingers’ crossed, at least from our respondents perspective, the chancellor places digitalisation, sustainability and big infrastructure at the top of his list of priorities.

What’s clear is the economy desperately needs a shot in the arm if we’re going to minimise the damage already wreaked by COVID-19 and the construction sector can be a central part of the solution.

Whatever’s announced next week, no doubt our industry experts will have an opinion or two. We’ll be sure to check in with them to get their further thoughts. Watch this space.

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