Construction sector reacts to the Autumn Statement

Construction sector reacts to the Autumn Statement

PBM presents a round-up of responses from the building and wider construction sector to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement.

Builders Merchants Federation:

The Builders Merchants Federation has welcomed the announcement to make full expensing permanent but says the government has missed an opportunity to create new jobs and boost local growth by failing to support a national retrofit strategy to improve the energy efficiency of millions of existing homes across the UK.

BMF CEO John Newcomb said: “The announcement on full expensing will be welcomed by builders’ merchants and building material manufacturers along with many other businesses as they invest to expand and upgrade their facilities. But, beyond a pledge to reform elements of the planning system, there was little direct support for the construction sector in the main headlines of the Autumn Statement.

“We want to get Britain building again, but there was nothing in the budget relating to our number one ask, support for a national retrofit strategy. This was a missed opportunity to stimulate the repair maintenance and improvement sector, create thousands of appropriately skilled jobs and boost much-needed local growth, while at the same time helping millions of families to improve their homes’ energy efficiency and cut heating bills.

“We will continue to speak directly to government to promote the positive impact of a skilled RMI programme. Our parliamentary reception next week will focus on the work we are doing to build a workforce to deliver the low carbon solutions that are the essence of the national retrofit strategy and the impact kickstart support from government would make.”

Federation of Master Builders:

Measures announced in the Autumn Statement to speed up planning, cut taxes for small businesses, increase support for business investment, and to provide financial backing to boost apprenticeships are welcome steps to help stimulate much needed growth in the economy, say the Federation of Master Builders.

FMB Chief Executive Brian Berry said: “The Autumn Statement will be welcomed by small builders, with the Government finally taking steps to support micro and SME businesses in a sector which has faced significant difficulty in recent years. However, this must only be the start if the Government is serious about tackling the challenges we continue to face. Measures to reform the way local authorities process planning applications is good news, as are plans to help fund local authorities tackle nutrient neutrality mitigation. However, substantial increases in funding for local authority planning departments are needed if we are to see real progress.”

Brian continued: “There were some surprising outcomes, like the changes to permitted development rights, which will bring work for house builders and the repair, maintenance, and improvement sector. Buried in the details is additional support for housing associations to deliver energy efficiency improvements. This support should also be rolled out to the owner occupier sector to help improve the UK’s leaky housing stock.”

He concluded: “Financial support for SMEs represents another positive step, along with other announcements to boost SME growth, such as adopting digital technology. It is good to see that skills training has received a boost, with additional funding announced to increase the number of apprenticeships undertaken.”

National Federation of Builders:

“Government Backs Businesses with a mix of Regulatory Reform and Tax Cuts”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement announced 110 growth measures, with an “explicit ambition to unlock British business and make work pay.” Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said: “It has been some time that a Chancellor played Prime Minister by linking the importance of regulatory reforms with growth, and it is hugely welcomed. For decades, business has felt increasingly dictated to, rather than enabled and we hope this is a sign of much needed direction change where business is enabled to innovate and invest, rather than placated with tax cuts.”

According to the NFB, the announcements to cut to self-employment taxes, increase investment in housing, regulatory reforms on the grid and permitted development, funding for nutrient neutrality and an acknowledgement that commercial premises should not be stifled by planning permissions all showed that the Government is taking the environment for growth seriously.

Additionally, investments in EV charging infrastructure, the expansion of technical skills, an increase in minimum living wages, the permanency of full expensing, and Back to Work plans also make for an interesting mix of strategies that will please many.

Even housebuilders were given a glimmer of hope, signalling that the Government is taking their challenges seriously.

Rico Wojtulewicz, Head of Policy and Market Insights, added: “We would like to thank the Chancellor for listening to the NFB regarding nutrient neutrality and grid connections, which both disproportionately harm the construction industry the most, especially SME housebuilders. Reforms and investments in planning were long overdue, and our long running campaign to support increased use of Local Development Orders, plus ensure planning supports heat pumps has finally gained traction.

“We are hopeful this is the start of a future where the Government realises that construction needs enabling and supporting, rather than being the cash cow for underinvestment.”

Logistics UK:

Today’s Autumn Statement contains encouraging signs for logistics businesses looking to drive recovery in the economy, but according to business group Logistics UK, the detail of the Chancellor’s proposals will show whether or not the industry will see real changes as a result. David Wells OBE, Logistics UK’s Chief Executive, said: “The decision to make the current full expensing allowance for capital permanent is a welcome step that will support logistics businesses with long-term planning and investment. Our members are keen to identify if this change will include the cost of acquiring leased or hired vehicles, as well as those purchased outright. In addition, detail is needed to identify whether the move will cover the cost of installing the infrastructure required to help the industry decarbonise, as our research shows this could amount to an outlay of up to £1 million per site – a prohibitive charge which will hinder the industry’s shift to net zero.”

News that the planning system is to be streamlined has also been welcomed by the business group, which has been pressing for changes to be made to enable logistics businesses to plan more efficiently for some time.

David commented: “Since our industry supplies every sector of the economy, it is vital that logistics is included as part of the overall planning process, not as a bolt-on afterthought. We will continue to press government to keep us at the heart of decision-making when it comes to business investment and development.”

Logistics UK continues to seek detail on how plans for Investment Zones and Freeports are to be implemented, as well as on ways the industry can be assisted on the route to decarbonisation.

“The devil of today’s announcement will be in the detail,” added David. “While there are indications that the statement could boost economic activity, our members are concerned about how Freeports and Investment Zones could work for them. In addition, businesses still need clarity on the support government will be providing for the transition to a net-zero economy, and we will be working closely with them in the coming weeks to ensure the best possible outcomes to keep the UK trading, both domestically and internationally.”     

PBM hopes to add to these summaries as more reactions are announced.

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