In the Viewpoint column of PBM’s November issue, editor Paul Davies looked back at the recent political party conference season and considered the potential implications for the sector of the policy pronouncements…
Whilst the news has been dominated by the terrible events unfolding in the Middle East, it is worth briefly reflecting on Party Conference season and some of the pronouncements from the main two political parties especially which relate to the building and construction sectors.
Obviously, Rishi Sunak’s scrapping of the Birmingham-Manchester leg of HS2 was the most notable headline story of the period, coupled with claims that the budget would be reallocated to a series of smaller, regional transport and infrastructure upgrades in a new ‘Network North’ programme (we’ll leave no comment that some of the schemes announced under this umbrella had already been completed, were in Devon(!), or were backtracked upon as merely “illustrative examples” within days…).
This followed the prior announcement that Government had ‘watered down’ some of its net zero plans, most notably moving back some of the dates relating to heating decarbonisation and the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles. It should be noted that, after the initial furore, many voices from the heating sector actually agreed that a delay might be a positive — for example, by allowing for the further development of potential alternate technologies and ensuring more installers can be trained to fit them.
“This really isn’t a party-political issue as there is consensus on the underlying need for new homes and the requirement to improve the existing ones. Instead, the key question becomes one of ‘delivery’.”
The Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, meanwhile, saw Keir Starmer explicitly state the need to ‘Get Britain Building’ again, outlining his party’s promise to create a number of new towns and build 1.5 million homes over the course of a parliament were it to achieve power at the next election. Broadly speaking, it should of course be noted that in terms of the numbers — a rate of roughly 300,000 homes per year — there’s not all that much difference between the two main parties…
As such, this really isn’t a party-political issue as there is consensus on the underlying need for new homes and the requirement to improve the existing ones. Instead, the key question becomes one of ‘delivery’.
In short, it is incumbent upon whomsoever wins the next election to develop a clear set of workable policies that can turn rhetoric into reality. And beyond even this, a real requirement to work in harness with the industry and its existing supply chains rather than against it, as seems to have been the case with pretty much every recent ‘green new deal’ type of scheme.
Kudos then for those behind the relaunch of the ‘Get Britain Building’ campaign. Led by the Builders Merchants Federation, the Building Alliance and the Federation of Master Builders, the initiative was revived ahead of the party conferences to promote a united front from the construction sector with a message to politicians that “investing in UK construction will help drive the economic recovery the country badly needs as construction affords a strong multiplier effect driven by UK produced goods and skilled labour.”
Significantly putting forward the sometimes unheard voices of both the merchant sector and SME building firms, the campaign will doubtless take heart that the ‘Get Britain Building’ phrase was actually deployed from the conference stages as it set out its own manifesto for the industry and its full list of recommendations for government.
Of course, an election could still be more than a year away, and the industry clearly must contend with the problems of the here and now. Yet it is encouraging to see that the benefits building can bring to the nation’s stagnating economy are, surely, clear to all.