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Construction Parliamentary Update - 21 November 2008

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

GENERAL

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesmen Vince Cable and Jeremy Browne held a briefing on the pre-Budget report. (20 November)

Philip Collins was re-appointed as Chairman of the Office of Fair Trading (Press Release). (18 November)

GENERAL PPP/PFI/FINANCE/PROCUREMENT

Conservative Leader David Cameron announced he was dropping his pledge to stick by Labour’s spending plans for 2010-11. The move reflected a changed political landscape around the use of public spending and tax cuts to work the UK out of recession, which has divided the parties (BBC). The other parties including the SNP attacked the announcement, saying it would lead to public service cuts (Press Release). (18 November)

The Scottish Government said it will considering extending the Freedom of Information Act to third sector bodies that award public contracts (Third Sector). The consultation closes on 12 January. (17 November)

Treasury officials were reportedly considering the rescue of stalled private finance initiative projects by allowing Government departments to put in their own money on a short-term basis, until markets stabilised, when they would be taken out and replaced with third party debt (Public Private Finance). (14 November)

Conservative Shadow Chancellor George Osborne came under pressure to review the party’s economic plans during the ongoing criticism of his performance (Guardian). (14 November)

The Scottish Parliament approved the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT). The SNP welcomed the news (Press Release). (14 November)

PLANNING

The New Local Government Network (NLGN) held their Conference on Local Area Agreements. (20 November)

The Planning Bill went through third reading in the House of Lords. The Government was defeated when peers voted 128 to 125 to give the Lords a say in regulations on the community infrastructure levy (CIL) which taxes increases in land values resulting from planning permission, with proceeds redistributed for local infrastructure projects (Hansard). (18 November)

London Mayor Boris Johnson appointed architects Richard Rogers and current RIBA President Sunand Prasad, Chair of the English Heritage Advisory Committee, Joyce Bridges, and Joint Chief Executive of the Argent Group, Roger Madelin to his Design Advisory Panel (Press Release). (17 November)

Nick Clegg outlined his parties approach to the countryside at a speech hosted by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). He said that the recession will create two-tier rural communities unless immediate action is taken (Press Release). (14 November)

CONSTRUCTION

60 backbenchers signed a motion calling on the Prime Minister to suspend empty property rates as the number of empty properties increase in the recession (Financial Times). (18 November)

The UK Green Building Council said that results of its survey showed that 96% of industry respondents wanted the Government to stick to their sustainable building targets through the recession (Contract Journal). (17 November)

The Government response to the Business and Enterprise Committee’s construction report was published. (14 November)

REGENERATION

Bob Lane OBE was appointed as the Chair of the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation (LTGDC) (Press Release). (20 November)

The Welsh Assembly Government launched a sustainable development scheme for development in the public sector. (19 November)

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney announced an increase in funding for Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) saying that Scotland's town and city centres were the 'heartbeat’ of our economy (Press Release) (19 November)

HOUSING

Mayor of London Boris Johnson launched his draft housing strategy, outlining how he intends to invest £5bn over the next three years to deliver 50,000 more affordable homes and boost the capital's housing market (Press Release). Shelter and other commentators criticised the number of social houses that would be built as part of the plan, which represents the most significant change from the plans of former Mayor Ken Livingstone’s administration (Press Release; Today Programme). The British Property Federation (BPF) praised the strategy (Press Release) (20 November)

The Department for Communities and Local Government published quarterly house building statistics. (20 November)

Shadow housing minister Grant Shapps and Liberal Democrat housing spokeswoman Sarah Teather were among the speakers at a Shelter-ROOF conference chaired by Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable (Channel 4). The charity released a report saying that the UK was facing a housing shortfall of one million homes (Press Release). (19 November)

Vince Cable was also among the speakers at a Local Government Association (LGA) Smith Square debate looking at local solutions to housing boom and bust. (19 November)

Communities Minister Iain Wright announced that the Government intended to renew efforts to house rough sleepers, committing £200 million to the cause of eradicating rough sleeping by 2012 (Press Release; No One Left Out - Communities ending rough sleeping; Summary of Responses Ultra Executive Summary). Shelter welcomed the announcement (Press Release). (18 November)

During Communities and Local Government questions Housing Minister Margaret Beckett insisted the Government’s eco-towns programme was “totally on course” though she said the Government were not committed to any specific number of eco-towns. She also repeated the Government’s shift of position on its target for the construction of 30 million affordable homes, describing it as an “ambition” (Hansard). The Housing Minister also attacked sale and rent back landlords (Hansard), and played down fears that the Government’s social housing green paper would end council tenants’ right to council housing for life (Hansard). (18 November)

Figures released by the National House Building Council (NHBC) showed that the number of houses being built was at its lowest for 20 years (Contract Journal). (17 November)

London School of Economics local government expert Tony Travers criticised the Government’s plans to increase the construction of social housing saying it could create an expansion of so-called 1960s-style 'sink estates.' Gordon Brown has pledged £400 million for social housing, and is expected to promise more in the pre-Budget report (Times). (14 November)

The Welsh Assembly Government announced plans for new green homes worth £80 million with 22 schemes located in urban and rural locations (Press Release). (14 November)

The Welsh Assembly Government published draft guidelines to enable Social Housing Grant (SHG) funded Do It Yourself Homebuy to be included in the SHG programme from 2009/10. The consultation closes on 12 January 2009. (14 November)

EDUCATION

Universities Secretary John Denham announced 27 areas in England interested in establishing higher education centres (Press Release). (20 November)

Schools secretary Ed Balls visited schools in Birmingham. (20 November)

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator decided on a proposal by Essex County Council to discontinue The Haywards and Woodlands Community Special School's and establish a new replacement Community Special School, in Chelmsford, Essex from September 1st January 2009 (Press Release). (18 November)

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) held an evidence session on renewing the physical infrastructure of English further education colleges, interviewing Ian Watmore, Permanent Secretary, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and Mark Haysom, Learning and Skills Council. (17 November)

HEALTH

The Times reported that the NHS is facing potential cuts in funding due to the bank bailout. The Health Service Journal reported that only £400 million of the NHS’s £1.7 billion surplus would be made available next year. (14 November)

TRANSPORT

Transport for London (TfL) hailed the £168.3 million funding package it said the London Mayor Boris Johnson had announced (Press Release). (20 November)

The House of Lords held a debate on the prospects for the future of the United Kingdom’s railways, where Transport Minister Lord Adonis answered questions. (20 November)

The Department for Transport published the 2008 public transport statistics bulletin. (20 November)

Network Rail revealed interim results which showed net debt of £20.49 billion from April to September and pre-tax profits down to £706 million from £780 million a year ago. (20 November)

Crossrail revealed design images for new Crossrail stations at Bond Street, Paddington, Tottenham Court Road and Whitechapel stations. The Commission for Architecture and Built Environment (CABE) is to advise on the designs and CABE announced members of its design review panel (Press Release; Press Release). (19 November)

Improvement work on the London Underground through the VCP framework, which covers contracts of all sizes for station improvement and congestion relief, tunnel cooling, disabled access and staff accommodation, was put on hold because of a another crisis in funding (Contract Journal). (19 November)

Scotland’s transport minister Stewart Stevenson was among the speakers at a Holyrood conference on demand-responsive transport. (19 November)

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond announced that efficiency work between Glasgow and Edinburgh is ahead of schedule and design contracts for the Edinburgh to Glasgow improvements programme would be signed next month (Press Release). (19 November)

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published their report on reducing rail passenger delays by better management of incidents. The Committee said that despite improvements the consequences of an incident in terms of disruption were “magnified”. (18 November)

Chancellor Alistair Darling promised to “maintain investment” in Crossrail to ensure it is not delayed by the recession. Ministers missed a September deadline to agree the funding package based on a £3.5 billion levy on London businesses, a £2.7 billion loan based on future rail fares and a £5.1 billion grant from the Government (Contract Journal). (18 November)

Passenger Focus published research revealing that only 34% of passengers are satisfied with how well a train company deals with delays (Press Release). (18 November)

Transport secretary Geoff Hoon used his speech to the Airport Operators Association to signal a change in the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) remit, apparently prioritising the interests of passengers over the airlines (Financial Times). (18 November)

The Scottish Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee took evidence on its inquiry into the potential benefits of high-speed rail services (Papers; Minutes). (18 November)

Rail Minister Andrew Adonis and Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced that Terry Morgan, the current Chief Executive of Tube Lines, would become Non-Executive Chair of Crossrail from November 2009 and that current Executive Chairman Douglas Oakervee will undertake Non-Executive Chair role until then (Press Release; Press Release). (17 November)

London Mayor Boris Johnson approved money for the examination and possible legal challenge to the Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon’s expected decision to approve the expansion of Heathrow airport (Guardian; Contract Journal). (17 November)

The planned start date for dualling of the A11 was brought forward to 2010 by Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon (Press Release). (17 November)

The Northern Way group warned in a series of reports that any short-term fall in traffic levels brought about by an economic slowdown must not be used as an excuse to avoid tackling congested roads (Press Release). (17 November)

Crossrail announced that Eversheds, Cripps Harries Hall, Wragge & Co and Ashurst would sit on its legal panel for property acquisition and planning activity. The team will advise Crossrail and Transport for London (TfL) and will be managed by Crossrail and TfL’s legal teams (Press Release). (14 November)

OLYMPICS AND 2012

Olympic consultants KPMG recommended that one of the 2012 venues be dropped to save money. The temporary venue at Greenwich for sports such as badminton and rhythmic gymnastics will not be built (Guardian). The Olympic Board issued a statement endorsing the recommendations for a temporary venue for Basketball to remain on the Olympic Park and the equestrian events to remain at Greenwich Park. (19 November)

The London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) published its first edition of its ‘Sustainable Sourcing Code’ (Press Release). (19 November)

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, London mayor Boris Johnson, British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan and 2012 Games chairman Lord Coe attended a London Olympic Board meeting in London (Meetings). (19 November)

The London Assembly questioned Lord Coe the Chair of LOCOG and Paul Deighton, CEO of LOCOG on the preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Press Release). (18 November)

FLOODING

The Scottish Rural Affairs and Environment Committee took evidence on the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Bill (Minutes). (19 November)

Sir Michael Pitt and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) official Martin Hurst were among the speakers at a Local Government Association (LGA) conference looking at the future risk of flooding. (18 November)

WASTE AND UTILITIES

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee hosted an evidence session on Waste Strategy in England with ASDA, John Lewis Partnership and Brecknell Willis, Bovis Lend Lease and Constructing Excellence. (19 November)

The Environment Agency reported that almost a quarter less waste was sent to landfill in 2007 than in 2001 (Press Release). (19 November)

FUTURE EVENTS

Monday 24 November

The Government publishes the Pre-Budget Report

Consideration of Lords amendments to Planning Bill

The EFRA Committee hosts an evidence session on Waste Strategy in England with Campaign to Protect Rural England and Encams, the British Soft Drinks Association and British Retail Consortium, and the Defra Minister for Farming and the Environment, Jane Kennedy.

The Scottish Executive’s consultation on proposals to increase the energy efficiency of existing non-domestic buildings closes.

Tuesday 25 November

The IFS hosts a briefing on the Government’s Pre-Budget Report

Community Health Partnerships Annual Conference

Commons Transport Questions

Wednesday 26 November

Excellence in BSF awards

Thursday 27 November

The Audit Commission publish their report on Service Families Accommodation.