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Autumn Statement: Opinion - Noble Francis, CPA

A lot of the Autumn Statement was trailed beforehand. In fact almost everything, so it is difficult to be surprised either positively or negatively.

Still, I was expecting two or three key projects to catch the headlines and give a positive spin to what would be a poor set of economic figures.

As it was, GDP forecasts were revised down considerably as expected and although the Chancellor says that there is not going to be the dreaded ‘double-dip’ recession, the majority of economists still think the economic forecasts are too positive.

As for construction, the sentiment sounded good but I wouldn’t get too excited. The Chancellor announced £5 billion extra in capital spending and £1.2 billion in particular for schools.

The positives for housing were already in the Housing Strategy last week and the positives for infrastructure were in the weekend press, and prior to that in Construction News. The additional funding for education is for new school places and new ‘free schools’ funding for the latter only kicks in during 2013/14.

Overall, none of the £5 billion infrastructure spending actually occurs in this financial year and 80% of this funding will only start in 2013/14 so we won’t be seeing construction driving economy recovery in the next 12-18 months.

Still, it is £5 billion extra to what we were expecting six months ago and it is not to be sniffed at.

Furthermore, the Chancellor expects to attract £20 billion from pension funds and capital markets into infrastructure and this will be boost to the sector and industry once frameworks are set in place and pension funds are more confident about systematic use of funds. Just don’t expect it to be soon.

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