By Daniel Hunter
Addressing political and construction leaders at the Government’s Construction Summit yesterday (Tuesday), Dr Neil Bentley, CBI Deputy Director-General said the CBI’s own Construction Council is “helping drive forward our Getting Britain Building campaign” to unleash growth and help embed a new 21st century industrial strategy for the sector.
Commenting on the recent Government Spending Review, Dr Bentley said: “Getting Britain building is at the top of the CBI agenda, and last week’s Spending Review announcements provided a timely opportunity to renew that focus.
“The main question is whether the Government rose to the challenge.
“And in some respects it did. Out of a £300bn infrastructure bonanza, £100bn was gifted to national projects to be taken up between now and 2020.
“But the time for promises is over. We now need the Government to deliver.”
On housing, Dr Bentley said: “CBI calls to invest in the Affordable Housing Programme beyond 2015 were heard and should go some way to addressing the shortfall in housing stock. The number of households in England is projected to grow by 10% to around 24 million by 2021, so we need the housing supply to be ramped up.”
On energy, he said: “The energy plans were also a big step forward. The renewables strike price and capacity mechanism means investors can take their plans off the drawing board and on to building sites.”
On infrastructure more generally, he added: “Extending the UK Guarantees Scheme was a no-brainer…only two schemes out of one-hundred enquires have so far got over the line — it needed more time and I’m glad it’s been given it.
“The prospect of new guarantees for the Mersey Gateway and Hinkley Point should stir business into action.”
On roads, Dr Bentley said: “The rush of road projects announced should create jobs in the short-term. This extra funding for road maintenance alone is equivalent to filling 19 million potholes every year.
“And bringing forward the A14’s start-date is a short-term shot in the arm of the regional and national economy.
“Now, we’ve got to nail down the detail and Ministers have to follow through on the promises they’ve made, and not allow planning processes to hold things up.”
Looking further ahead, Dr Bentley called for more action on Britain’s railways, with the West Coast mainline set to reach capacity by 2020. He added we need to tackle the thorny issue of airport capacity, as without the capacity to support new routes, we’re “shooting ourselves in the foot”.
He concluded: “With more to be done in the long-term to renew our infrastructure, we agree with the Government that construction should be given every chance to become a champion sector.”
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