Philip Hammond’s first (and last) Autumn Statement marked a departure from his predecessors’.
His speech contained a couple of good jokes, but far fewer gimmicks and a welcome lack of slogans.
Where George Osborne had co-opted construction imagery to say ‘We are the builders’, Mr Hammond preferred to stick to more straightforward statements on the importance of infrastructure as one of the central planks that will help close the UK’s significant productivity gap.
He spoke for less time and published a shorter report, focusing instead on a small number of consistent messages: the economic outlook does look worse as a result of the EU referendum; productivity is too low; we’re going to try to make it easier for business to fix it.
The speech itself contained a lot of announcements that had been trailed over the last few days, from borrowing to fund infrastructure to increased investment in R&D; funding for affordable housing to additional roads spending.
Even the chancellor’s punchline – the fact that he would scrap the Autumn Statement itself – had been briefed in advance.
So far, so good for construction. But a careful trawl of the accompanying documents by the CN team has revealed even more he didn’t mention.
This afternoon we’ve published the 6 things you really need to know about the Autumn Statement, plus detail on the future for PF2 (yes, there is a future for PF2, apparently), the go-ahead for more Northern Powerhouse projects, the full detail behind the infrastructure spending announcements and the commitment to closing the national productivity gap via regional investment.
The difference in tone is notable. This was not a statement about ‘shovel-ready projects’ but a longer-term commitment intended to help the firms that are going to build them – a similar approach to his promise to allow government departments greater autonomy over some of their spending.
There are many challenges ahead, but some real opportunities for the construction industry to show what it can do. You are the builders now.