Autumn Statement: Private sector calls for infrastructure, devolution and skills


Ahead of the chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday, senior figures from the construction and civil engineering sectors have stressed the importance of investment in infrastructure, devolution and access to skilled labour for the post-Brexit economy.

The Treasury has said chancellor Philip Hammond will announce £1.3bn of spending on roads and transport, and ‘billions’ on other infrastructure, including £1bn on digital connectivity.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said the Government should focus on local investment, backing major local projects and City Deals across the country.


CECA head of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said: ‘The last five years have seen City Deals unlock significant infrastructure spending, but there is always the opportunity to do more.

‘City Deals have the potential to release economic activity quickly. Their implementation can be exactly the shot in the arm that will deliver local growth and high skill employment to regional economies.

‘As Britain looks towards our future outside of the European Union, it is vital that the Government uses all the policy levers at its disposal to rebalance the economy.’

Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG, said ‘The prosperity of the construction industry over the next few years now depends almost entirely on Government policy.’

He said: ‘If the Government is confident about Britain’s Brexit future it needs to back its conviction by unlocking a spending programme that invests for the next 100 years of prosperity.'

Mr Threlfall said the chancellor should consider announcing ‘a fundamental fiscal devolution’ to boost the spending power of the Greater London Authority and combined authorities and commit to giving Transport for the North and other proposed statutory authorities direct control over road and rail investment priorities in their regions.

He identified access to labour as another area of major uncertainty for the construction industry.

Engineering firm Costain said the planned investment in infrastructure presents the UK with the opportunity to build an engineering talent base for the future. In a new report, it argued that a ‘recruitment revolution’ is needed to attract a new wave of potential engineers with the necessary skills and backgrounds.

Darren James, infrastructure managing director at Costain, said: ‘Whatever the detailed content of the Statement we know it is likely to underpin the need to raise our game on the skills agenda.

‘We have already taken big steps forward but now we can really leverage the opportunity ahead and ensure that the UK has in abundance the skills to deliver the major and complex projects we need.’

Balfour Beatty also pointed out that: 'Communities in England have been allocated £5.3bn of EU regeneration funding up to 2020. However, until the EU withdrawal negotiations have been completed, the future of EU direct funding will remain uncertain. We welcome the chancellor’s words on this and look forward to a firmer commitment in the Autumn Statement. It is important that this vital funding continues to avoid essential growth boosting projects stalling and local economies across England being stifled.'


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