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Construction Parliamentary Update - 19 December 2008

A round up of all the construction news from Westminster over the last seven days brought to you by the Madano Partnership.

GENERAL PPP/PFI

Nick Clegg announced the party's policy to scrap the government's temporary 2.5 per cent cut in VAT and spend the £12.5 billion on a "Green Road out of the Recession". The proposals include insulating every school and hospital over five years, insulation and energy efficiency for a million homes and a £1,000 subsidy another million, 40,000 zero-carbon social houses, buying 700 train carriages reopening railway lines and stations and building new ones, electrifying the Great Western and Midland mainlines and beginning the Liverpool light rail network and installing smart meters in every home within five years. (18 December)

London Mayor Boris Johnson announced plans to make £979 million of cost savings across the Greater London Authority, Metropolitan police and Transport for London by 2012 (Press Release). The plans include efficiency savings of £103m in 2009-10 in a 57-point economic recovery action plan. (17 December)

PLANNING

The National Audit Office (NAO) published a report on targets aimed at speeding up English planning decisions. It said the Government’s attempts to speed up the planning system had produced mixed results. The report found that a 13-week target for decisions had resulted in some "perverse consequences", leading councils to reject more developments in some cases. (17 December)

The Department for Communities and Local Government published planning applications statistics for July to September 2008. (12 December)

CONSTRUCTION

Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill received second reading in the House of Lords. (17 December)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) named Philip White, its former head of construction operations in London, as its new chief inspector for construction. He will replace Stephen Williams who will become director of field operations for London and the Olympics. (15 December)

REGENERATION

The Commons Business and Enterprise Committee held an evidence session as part of their inquiry into the role of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) with Business Minister Pat McFadden. (15 December)

HOUSING

Housing Minister Margaret Beckett published a Written Ministerial Statement announcing a consultation on the definition of zero carbon homes and non-domestic buildings – the details surrounding the Government’s target for all new homes to be ‘zero carbon’ from 2016. Consultation closes on 18 March 2009. (17 December)

DCLG released figures on affordable homes in England over the last decade. (17 December)

The Communities and Local Government Committee held an evidence session in its enquiry into Housing and the Credit Crunch with the Council of Mortgage Lenders, National Housing Federation, Home Builders Federation and Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association, Housing Minister Margaret Beckett, Sir Bob Kerslake, Chief Executive-designate of the Homes and Communities Agency, and Peter Marsh, Chief Executive-designate of the Tenant Services Authority. Beckett told the committee that a paper was being drawn up citing evidence that banks’ boosting of lending rates was forcing housing associations to abandon plans to make efficiency savings and build new homes. (16 December)

Housing Minister Margaret Beckett announced that the Government would spend £100 million more into the HomeBuy Direct scheme in order to help up to 8,000 more first time buyers if there is the demand. (15 December)

Barclays Chief Executive John Varley said that he expected a further 10-15 per cent drop in house prices from the 2007 height. (15 December)

A report from the Construction Products Association (CPA) said that rates of house building had dropped to their lowest levels since 1924. (15 December)

EDUCATION

The European Investment Bank (EIB) indicated that it was prepared to consider funding half of the debt requirement of a number of Building Schools for the Future (BSF) projects, up to a value of £300 million. (18 December)

TRANSPORT

DfT also released Written Statements on security planning at airports guidance on transport governance reviews and a consultation on guidance on local transport plans. (18 December)

The Competition Commission (CC) published a provisional report indicating that BAA would almost certainly have to sell three airports (including Gatwick and Stansted). The CC endorsed plans for expansion of Gatwick, and Conservative Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers reiterated her opposition to the idea. (17 December)

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published their report ‘Shared services in the Department for Transport & its agencies.’ The report heavily criticised the project to cut administration expenses by basing payroll, finance and personnel services all on one site in Swansea, saying that overall it had created greater costs. (16 December)

DfT published a written statement on the EU Transport Council, 9 December 2008. (16 December)

The Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee discussed strategic transport issues and high-speed rail links. (16 December)

Environment secretary Hilary Benn warned against allowing the expansion of Heathrow to lead to a breach of European rules on air pollution (15 December)

FLOODING

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn made a statement on new flooding defence measures in light of the Pitt Report and published the Government’s action plan. The Government will create a new national flood forecasting centre. Local Authorities will be responsible for assessing and managing local flood risks, a decision the Conservatives opposed. Some Local Authorities will also have access to a £15 million fund. (17 December)

POLICE, FIRE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Communities Minister Sadiq Khan welcomed an allocation of £78 million to English Fire and Rescue Authorities for improvements in their estate. (15 December)

FUTURE EVENTS

Friday 19 December The Welsh consultation on proposed changes to land management actions under Axis 2 of the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007 – 2013 closes.

Friday 19 December Holyrood conference on Scotland’s transport infrastructure ‘Late 2008’ NAO publish report on financial management in DCSF

Wednesday 31 December CLG’s two consultations on measures to prevent rural housing shortages closes

Early 2009’ Consortium DTZ reports on the potential regional economic impacts of a Severn tidal scheme in Wales

‘January 2009’ Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon announces his decision on a third runway at Heathrow

Thursday 01 January 2009 The consultation on access to Cardiff International Airport closes.

Monday 05 January 2009 UK Contractors Group (UKCG) is launched.