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WSP boss: Tory win would help boost industry confidence

The Conservatives retaining power in next month’s general election would benefit the construction sector in a post-Brexit Britain, the UK boss of WSP has said.

WSP’s UK chief executive Mark Naysmith told Construction News a Conservative win would boost confidence in the sector and the wider UK economy.

He said: “We need to see the confidence back in the economy, and if a majority gets behind Theresa May for the next five years to resolve things, I truly believe that will help with the confidence in the general economy.”

The prime minister called a surprise snap election last month, saying it was the only way to guarantee certainty and stability in the face of Brexit. 

Mr Naysmith said Mrs May’s decision was necessary in the context of Brexit so that the government’s actions could be supported.

He said a positive election result could help ensure continued public sector spending on the infrastructure needed to “keep the country on its feet”.

This would also have a knock-on effect on the private sector, where confidence is currently lacking, by shoring up sentiment among investors and developers, he argued.

“Public spend will bring confidence back into the private sector,” Mr Naysmith said.

“It is all linked to land value; the more confidence there is, the more people are going to spend on land for development.”

He said that so far the election had only affected one of the projects WSP was tendering for: the £4bn Palace of Westminster revamp.

Last week Construction News reported that the body in charge of procuring the £4bn restoration of Parliament had written to bidders asking for their consent to extend the tender process until after the election.

On infrastructure, Mr Naysmith said the company’s ongoing work under its HS2 phase two contract had been unaffected, despite the controversies surrounding CH2M and its development partner contract.

A WSP / Mott MacDonald joint venture secured a £100m professional services deal for the second phase of the line on the same day CH2M was initially announced as development partner.

Mr Naysmith admitted he was relieved that Mace had not taken the client to court, a process he believes could have delayed work by months if not years.

The comments from WSP’s UK chief came ahead of the official removal of ‘Parsons Brinckerhoff’ from the WSP title and the restructuring of its UK business.

Under the new structure, the UK arm will be divided into four business units: transport and infrastructure; planning and advisory; property and buildings; and energy and infrastructure.

Former roads and bridges director Steve Smith will head up the transport and infrastructure team; Kamran Moazami will lead property and buildings, having been head of structures; former head of development Ian Liddell will lead planning and advisory; and ex-Costain oil and gas head Fraser Mackay will head up WSP’s energy and infrastructure team.

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