2nd December Journal Column

CENEBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Last week, chancellor Philip Hammond made his first (and last) Autumn Statement and announced a lot of positive things for our industry. Housing and construction companies have welcomed his announcement which sets out new funding for affordable housing and infrastructure amongst other things.
The government have pledged to spend £2.3bn on civil engineering infrastructure work like local roads, which will support the delivery of up to 10,000 new homes where they are needed most.

A further £1.4bn will be provided to deliver 40,000 new affordable homes – a necessary response to the fact that the number of affordable homes in England fell last year to the lowest level in 24 years. The news has been welcomed by housing professionals, particularly Mark Farmer who authored the Farmer Review earlier in the year, who recommended that the government increased commitment to the National Affordable Homes Programme.
The National Housing Federation (NHF)have welcomed the announcement after calling on the government to relax restrictions on existing affordable housing funding for quite some time. Increased flexibility and extra investment will give the freedom and confidence to build more affordable homes, including those for rent, more quickly across the country.

The chancellor said between 1 per cent and 1.2 per cent of Gross Domestic Profit (GDP) will be invested every year from 2020 in economic infrastructure, which is broken down into the likes of transport, energy, flood defences, water, waste and digital communications, which might explain why there was no mention of any specifics- so let’s hope it’s invested exactly where it’s needed.
A ratio of 1 per cent-1.2 per cent compares to 0.8 per cent of GDP that is being spent currently, so it does sound promising, but four years is a long time to wait.

The housing sector has had a promising couple of months, and it will be interesting to hear expert opinions on how the government plans to tackle the housing crisis at the big housing debate. The debate, taking place throughout next week will give an up-to-date picture of the challenges facing the sector and what’s in store for the future, particularly after the government announcements.

While it all sounds positive, especially for housing, I was disappointed not to see any mention of investments in training and apprenticeships considering the number of skills shortage issues the industry is still struggling with. It would have been reassuring to see that a plan is in place to look at training and re-training people in the UK to prepare for any restrictions we may face when the impact of Brexit comes into play, but fingers crossed that comes next year – we need it sooner rather than later.

The statement didn’t feature anything that is going to impact us immediately, it featured a lot of small initiatives and big promises that will take a few years for changes to happen, so for now it’s a lot of waiting around and going about business as usual as we wait for initiatives to come into place – 2017 really is going to be an eventful year.