Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment
Construction stakeholders respond to Philip Hammond’s 2017 Autumn Budget.
Eddie Tuttle, associate director for policy, research and public affairs at the CIOB, said: “The various packages of funding to support the building of more homes – and importantly higher quality homes – is welcome. But it’s not clear how the £44bn of capital funding, loans and guarantees to support the housing market will be spent.
“Underwriting borrowing and giving housebuilders guarantees is no substitute for delivering high-quality, affordable homes of all tenures.
“We are pleased that the chancellor has listened to the industry on skills provision: research has shown that labour supply has been the biggest source of capacity constraint for the construction industry over the past 15 years.
“Boosting the quality and quantity of the construction labour force is critical to deliver the homes and infrastructure that the country needs, so the £34m construction skills fund is a welcome policy. However, this will need to be bolstered in the future and further supported by the private sector given that a fifth of the construction workforce is due to retire in the next decade.
Tuttle added: “Finally, the CIOB is delighted to see that £170m has been provided over the next three years for innovation to transform productivity in the construction sector.”
John Hicks, director and head of government & public at Aecom, said: “With Brexit looming and growth forecasts down it’s clear to see that the chancellor is keen to reassure the industry and businesses like Aecom that the government will provide stability through this uncertain period.
“However, saying you understand business’s concerns and actually allaying those concerns are two different things and while we welcome much of today’s budget it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered.”
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said, re land banking: “As has been proved by numerous independent investigations in the past, house builders do not land bank. House builders have nothing to fear from a review of land banking and if it identifies non-house builders who are sitting on land and brings that forward for development it would be a positive move.
“Any review should also focus on why so many plots that some suggest are in a builder’s ‘land bank’ are mired in the planning system and identify ways to process them more quickly so they can actually be built.”
And generally, Baseley said: “300,000 homes a year is an ambitious target and will require further improvements in the policy framework and business environment to allow the sector to deliver. There is no silver bullet that will deliver a step change in supply but government needs to continue to develop policies that will build on the big increases in supply of recent years.
“The measures announced today will assist by stimulating demand and helping broaden the supply base of new homes. But much more needs to be done, in particular with regards to the planning system, if the target is to be met.
“Government needs to continue to help big builders whilst introducing policies that allow SME builders and specialist providers alongside the affordable housing sector to they can play their part in building the homes the country needs
“The number of SME builders has collapsed in recent decades so more money for SME builders is welcome and needs allocating quickly. The planning system remains a significant constraint on the industry’s ability to deliver and improvements are positive, though further proposals form the White Paper need bringing forward.
John Woolley, construction partner at law firm Dentons, commented: “With Brexit looming and concerns growing about current and future labour shortages and skills gaps, the proposals for training and education are welcome – particularly on digital skills.
“However, the promised investment is limited and will do little to comfort HR teams in the short term. That said, the chancellor’s proposals should reinforce the importance of lifelong learning. As well as ensuring new entrants to the industry are suitably skilled, it could enable older workers to retrain or enhance their skills thereby keeping them – and their extensive experience – in the workforce for longer.
“Developing a stronger, more skilled workforce is essential both in the run up to Brexit and for dealing with changed market conditions thereafter.”
Jonathan Goring, managing director of housing developer Lovell, said: “We welcome the measures announced by the chancellor to get more homes built and assist more people into home ownership. We’re encouraged by the focus on unlocking development on potential housing sites that are now lying empty.
“Our own research, highlighted in the recent Localis report, suggests this could play an important part in tackling the under-supply of new homes. We’ve particularly drawn attention to the amount of public land that’s unused, which is a big issue for the wider business.
“Much is in areas of high housing demand and could provide sites for the new homes that are so urgently needed. We very much hope that Oliver Letwin’s review will also investigate this issue.”