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CN Briefing: Balfour Beatty; industrial strategy; construction; Brexit; Modernise or Die;

A report published by Balfour Beatty today claims Brexit could be an opportunity to diversify the economy back towards construction, engineering and manufacturing.

Balfour’s report, The Industrial Strategy - a Vision for Growth, responds to the government’s desire to place industrial strategy at the heart of the future of the UK economy.

It states: “Leaving the EU could be an opportunity for the diversification of the economy away from financial services and back towards industries such as engineering, construction and manufacturing.”

The explanation given is that the UK may “no longer be bound by single market rules which restrict a more active industrial policy”.

They’re right, and leading economists are preparing for a ‘hard Brexit’ already.

In 2013 an industrial strategy for construction was published. That strategy was led by former chief construction adviser Peter Hansford, in partnership with government and construction business leaders.

it set out ambitious targets for the industry to achieve by 2025, including that it find 50 per cent reductions in the time taken from planning to completion of projects and a 33 per cent reduction in the initial costs of construction and whole life costs of assets.

Construction 2025 isn’t directly mentioned in the Balfour Beatty report, although it acknowledges there is plenty of industrial strategy work done already which the government should build on in collaboration with the industry.

Balfour’s message is more about the industrial strategy providing economic certainty, such as using “infrastructure as a cross-sector enabler”, though I confess having read the report I’m still not sure what that means, or what the implications are.

It does make good points about finding a balance between future growth sectors (e.g. advanced manufacturing, digital) and the core building blocks of industry (e.g. construction, manufacturing).

The real question now is whether the government’s approach on a new industrial strategy for construction should focus solely on the construction sector’s contribution to the UK economy and how productivity can be improved.

And will that operate in tandem with a strategy urging the industry to do better, such as Construction 2025? And how does that work with the Modernise or Die report published this week?

And how about the National Needs Assessment for infrastructure being launched tomorrow? Or the work being carried out by the Construction Leadership Council, or National Infrastructure Commission?

Brexit could be an opportunity to diversify the economy back towards construction. But there are an awful lot of people fighting to be heard.

Let’s take stock and check if someone is listening first.

Want More?

Irvine Sellar chats to CN about why local opposition to schemes could see parts of London “miss out”.

We brought three economists together to debate the impact of the EU Referendum on the industry. Good news is they’re not too downbeat.

CN has been shortlisted for five national journalism awards.

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