There are fewer than 100 days to go until May’s general election, which can mean only one thing: a surge of politicians in hard hats.
The more senior (you will recognise them by the number of photographers on site) will use exaggerated hand gestures to show that they too would be able to handle an excavator drill, or would at least relish the chance to try. But beware false promises and projects.
There is little that can be done to stop political games being played with infrastructure in the coming months.
This leads to a legitimate fear that projects in the early stages could be consigned to the scrapheap come the autumn. Or worse, entire programmes of work could be axed, as with Building Schools for the Future in 2010.
Labour’s shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan has already warned he will scrap plans for a Leicestershire ‘secure college’ for young offenders if his party takes power in May. He claims the government is trying to push through ‘pet projects’ to curry favour with voters.
Rightly or wrongly, a new government would look afresh at its spending priorities, which could have implications for major projects - HS2, for example - or local authority spending powers.
“If your MP offers the sun and the stars, ask what they would do in opposition”
The good news is the private sector is gearing up. Goldman Sachs is in early talks with contractors over its proposed London HQ, while Sir Michael Bear, chairman of the government’s Regeneration and Investment Organisation, tells Construction News why overseas investors are keen on new UK projects.
This all points to improving conditions and a new government would take power in better economic circumstances than the coalition did in 2010, backed up by a construction industry that is finally shaking off the shackles of recession.
But if your MP turns up on your doorstep offering the sun and the stars because he or she ‘understands’ the value of construction for the economy, perhaps consider asking what they would do in opposition.
Would a Tory MP support plans for an independent infrastructure commission, as proposed by Labour? If Labour is to spend another term in opposition, how would it work with a Conservative-led government to solve the housing crisis?
Given the industry’s reliance on immigrant workers, how would UKIP help tackle the skills shortage? Would the Lib Dems continue to support new nuclear?
Now is the time to snuff out false promises and establish which politicians truly support construction and investment in the industry because it’s the right thing to do, not just because they want your vote come May.