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Politicians must be held to account on new policies

With the party conference season upon us, it feels as though something has to change after weeks and weeks of limbo.

Uncertainty over the economic outlook looks set to continue for the time being, but politicians have the opportunity to at least make clear what their policies are, which will help the industry plan for certain eventualities.

This week, Construction News published data from the Construction Products Association setting out three scenarios for the industry over the next three years, dependent on how the economy fares and what action the government takes. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly, if you like, and it makes clear which aspects politicians are most likely to be able to influence.

We need to hear clearly from the government what their plans are on infrastructure, on housing and on other public sector investment. Commercial building is likely to suffer to a greater or lesser extent regardless.

But this isn’t all about the government. The unedifying Labour leadership election is now over and the party has a responsibility – not only to its members and Labour voters but to the whole country – to start behaving like an effective opposition.

Labour needs to do more than simply state it would build more houses; it needs to set out how. Not only must Labour have its own policies; it must fulfil its responsibility to hold the government to account.

Whatever the government sets as its policies, they must be subject to scrutiny.

In short, Labour must make sure it is relevant. One major contractor chief executive told me this week the only Labour politician he would be interested in hearing from right now is London mayor Sadiq Khan. If that is the widely held business view, Labour has some work to do.

This is not about one political party or another; it’s about enabling business to make plans. We need conversations and debate about the future of financing and of PFI, as well as discussion over the next steps for borrowing.

For well-rehearsed reasons, the construction industry is often reactive. Politicians owe it to contractors, clients and consultants to enable them to plan ahead.

CN Summit: Still time to book

The industry’s biggest clients are speaking at this year’s CN Summit on 11-12 Oct at London’s Hilton Bankside, including the Department for Transport, Network Rail, Land Securities, HS2, Crossrail 2 and Sellar Property Group. The last remaining places are still available – book now at


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