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A fresh partnership in getting Britain building

We’ve got a problem building stuff. We can’t seem to deliver the homes and infrastructure we desperately need if we are to grow our economy, counter climate change and pay for much-needed improvements in public services.

This month Martyn Jones asks if the new Labour government will help us – to coin a phrase – turn the page on all the reasons why we lag our peers on building major infrastructure – a lack of investment, an overzealous planning system, political instability, poorly defined project outcomes, the silos in our operating system and project delivery methods, and our fragmented supply chains.

The incoming Labour government claims the stability of the economy to be their number one priority. It is, they argue, what investors will be looking for as they make choices about where to spend their billions of pounds of private investment in our infrastructure from clean energy through to transport.

But growth must be green so alongside this a new national wealth fund is promised which will allocate £7.3 billion to help accelerate the green transition and help re-industrialise Britain deploying the new technologies and ways of working in the increasingly dominant techno-economic paradigm.

There are immediate planning reforms too, to meet their pledge to build 1.5 million homes in the next five years and stop what should be ten-year projects becoming 25-year projects. This will include updating the National Policy Planning Framework to restore mandatory housing targets and prioritising the release of ‘grey belt’ land.

What do we in construction want from the new government? A survey of construction professionals in the week before Labour’s victory conducted by multi-disciplinary consultancy Pick Everard and planning and development consultancy Lichfields identified the need for a pro-development policy platform to counter barriers to growth, a long-term industrial strategy, public investment decisions on housing, clean energy investments, and national grid capacity improvements.

Also, in the run up the election, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) sent an open letter to the main parties setting out their considerations for a future government to deliver the homes and infrastructure we need, and to maximise the contribution of the construction sector to the UK economy by helping to stimulate productivity and growth.

The CLC committed to playing their part in convening industry to work in partnership with Government to deliver on the productivity opportunity. They argue that by working in partnership we can unlock investment into the sector, and develop the skills and innovation to deliver enhanced productivity and growth.

They offered the following advice to raise productivity and help stimulate growth:

A pipeline of work with an infrastructure strategy setting out the needs of the country and a

comprehensive approach to infrastructure investment over the next 10 years.

Recognising the importance of procurement, and the need to implement the Construction Playbook consistently on Government projects, with a particular focus on risk management.

Continue the reform of prompt payment legislation and ensure Government Departments are adhering to it.

Provide places to live by urgently implementing planning reform, unlocking small sites for SME House Builders, and introducing a presumption in favour of development on small sites of up to 25 homes on brownfield land.

Encourage Build to Rent to relieve pressures on the private rental market and incentivise more private finance to accelerate the delivery of affordable housing.

Work with industry to set out a 10-year policy & regulatory roadmap for the retrofitting the different segments of the housing market to accelerate the uptake of retrofi

Improving performance by continuing regulatory reform in building safety and products and continuing to support the industry to invest in innovation by providing stability in the R&D tax credits regime.

Reform the Apprenticeship Levy to become more strategic and flexible to boost employer investment in workforce skills.

If we achieve this, they argue, we can close the productivity gap between construction and the wider economy, which could generate £45bn of additional added value each year for the UK – enough to build more than 220,000 houses a year or pay for two thirds of the UK’s ten-year infrastructure pipeline.

What is the role of Constructing Excellence in pressing the reset button for construction and the economy? Well, we are uniquely placed to bring funders, commissioning clients and the whole construction supply system together in mutually advantageous partnerships.

Regionally, our Focus and Theme groups provide much collective thinking and advice to add fresh value propositions and help turbocharge change.

Our Smart Construction and Skills Groups focus on how we can raise productivity through the adoption of MMC, increase and adapt the skills of our workforce, attract the new talent that we will need to meet the aspirations of the new government, and unleash the opportunities offered by the dominant techno-economic paradigm.

The Building Safety Groups remind us it’s not just about the volume of construction output but its quality, safety, and compliance. And the Climate Crisis and Action Groups offer strategies for achieving net zero and protection of the natural environment and placing them at the heart of the re-industrialisation of the UK, and our investment in infrastructure, and new housing.

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