Construction industry leaders have welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment to fix the UK economy and build new homes and infrastructure. Setting out an intent to invest has come at the right moment as construction workloads, enquiries and level of employment have all contracted to historically low levels.
Leo Quinn, Balfour Beatty Group Chief Executive, said: “The Prime Minister’s commitment to accelerate the UK’s long-term infrastructure pipeline is a critical factor for the country’s recovery. As well as stimulating regional and national economies, it will generate vast employment opportunities across the country and help provide our younger generations with employable skills. Without this, following the fall-out from COVID-19, we could see widespread structural unemployment issues.
“It is a commitment I welcome warmly, but our industry must prioritise sustainable, digital and innovative solutions in our delivery. In doing so, we will safeguard our future capabilities and provide certainty for the workforce of tomorrow.”
Clive Docwra, Managing Director of the McBainsconsultancy, said:“If we are to really experience an infrastructure and construction boom that truly levels up, we need to see construction firms from all corners of the UK, and of all shapes and sizes, not just the multinationals, be a part of these plans.”
Gerard Toplass, executive chairman at Pagabo, the framework service, commented: “The government already had ambitious targets for construction prior to COVID-19, so ensuring that the path to recovery is a short one is absolutely crucial in achieving those promises and delivering the necessary infrastructure projects that have also arisen out of the pandemic, such as improving the infrastructure to support digital connectivity and improving transport systems to allow for social distancing.”
However, some reacted with concern to the Prime Minister’s announcement. Jude Brimble, GMB National Secretary, said: “Five billion sounds like a lot – but in infrastructure terms it’s just a drop in the ocean. It wouldn’t even meet half the cost of filling in the potholes in England and Wales.
“To get our economy back on its feet we need a proper recovery plan based on sustained infrastructure spending targeted to create and keep good quality jobs.”
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The crushing impact of the coronavirus on builders’ workloads, enquiries and employment, as set out by the latest State of Trade data, sends a clear message to the Government that it is right to invest in construction.
“We need a strategy for supporting the retention and recruitment of apprentices into the construction industry. Without these individuals, an infrastructure revolution will not be possible. In all of this we cannot forget the quality and sustainability of our buildings. A national retrofit strategy will help boost market confidence, and unleash the army of local builders waiting to improve the energy efficiency of our homes.”