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Construction Parliamentary Update - 09 April 2010

A round up of all the construction news from Westminster this week brought to you by the Madano Partnership.

PPP/PFI
The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee published its second report; ‘The Government Response to Report on Private Finance Projects and off-balance sheet debt’. (7 April)

CONSTRUCTION
In an interview with Construction News, Construction Minister Ian Lucas asked the industry to form a “cohesive response” to the findings of the Low Carbon Strategy. Mr Lucas explained that he would like to see the construction industry put forward a “single wishlist” and that he does not think regulation is inevitable but there does need to be better “clarity” around what the industry is expected to do. (8 April)

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) published the latest construction purchasing managers’ index showing that the UK’s construction industry grew for the first time in 25 months. The growth of the sector was mainly due to a rise in new orders. House building showed the strongest rise in activity but the civil engineering sector remained in decline during March. (7 April)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirmed that new regulations now require the HSE to be notified of conventional tower cranes installed on construction sites. (6 April)
In response to Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s announcement of a May 6th General Election the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) called on all political parties to listen to the construction industry. Chirs Blythe CIOB Chief Executive explained that a despite there being difficult decision sto be made on public expenditure cuts a “sustained programme of national investment” was necessary. He also explained that “The physical infrastructure of [UK] underpins the entire economic and social infrastructure. Investment in the built environment can spread the benefits of an economic stimulus to all parts of the UK”. (6 April)

The Federation of Master Builders released the latest results from its state of the trade survey showing that nearly one in three building companies are expecting their workloads to fall this year and more than half have seen a reduction in the amount of private sector housing work in the first quarter of this year. (6 April)

The Communities and Local Government (CLG) department published the summary of responses for its consultation on ‘Proposals for amending Building Regulations’. (1 April)
Figures from the New Civil Engineer’s (NCE) Consultant’s File 2010 showed that overall employment in civil engineering has fallen 7.4% from 151,400 in January 2009 to 140,200 in January 2010. (1 April)

HOUSING

The House of Commons West Midlands Regional Committee published the report ’ Planning for the Future: Housing and Economic Development in the West Midlands’. The report warns that shortages in affordable housing have the potential to stunt the West Midlands’ economic growth. (8 April)

The House of Commons South East Committee published its report into Housing in the South East, raising concerns that the region is not building enough to meet the target for new homes contained in the South East Plan. (7 April)

The Communities and Local Government (CLG) department announced that councils will receive a share of a £146 million funding pot to plan and deliver new homes. It is hoped that the Housing and Planning Delivery Grant (HPDG) will provide a direct incentive for councils to work with partners in the public and private sector to ensure that new homes are built where they are needed. It is an additional top up to mainstream funding and councils can choose how to spend it locally. (6 April)

The Scottish Government announced new rules which will come into force this October to make new build homes more energy efficient. The Building Standards Technical Handbook includes guidance on enhanced energy standards for new builds, including homes and non-domestic buildings. (6 April)

The National Housing Federation (NHF) published research that showed the housing crisis is set to intensify as a result of insufficient numbers of homes being built in every region since 2002. The NHF criticised regional planning authorities for thier failure to ensure the right numbers of private and social homes were built in each region. Conservative Shadow Housing Minister, Grant Shapps also commented on the figures criticizing the Government’s “catastrophic failure” to meet regional housing targets. (2 April)

The Home and Communities Agency (HCA) announced funding of up to £2.5 million for new, environmentally sustainable, affordable housing in Swindon. The scheme is a joint venture between TV presenter Kevin McCloud’s company Hab and housing group GreenSquare, the investment supports the delivery of high quality new housing, built to Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, with the potential to be upgraded to a higher standard in the future. (1 April)

Housing and Planning Minister John Healey MP confirmed that a partnership of councils in Essex have expressed an interest in using ‘world-leading’ eco-town standards. The Haven Gateway Partnership brings the total number of local authorities and partnerships in the potential “second wave” of eco-towns to 11. (1 April)

EDUCATION

Secretary of State for Schools Ed Balls MP announced that Cumbria County Council will join the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme . The Government will invest £61.5 million to help the County refurbish its secondary schools. (5 April)
Secretary of State for Schools Ed Balls MP announced that Aston Univeristy will receive Government funding for a new £17 million Engineering Academy. (1 April)

HEALTH

Hospital bosses blamed inflation for the £7 million-a-year rise in payments for Birmingham’s new PFI hospital. When building work began in 2006, University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust announced it would repay £40.8 million a year for more than 35 years to a consortium led by construction giant Balfour Beatty. But the Trust will now repay £48.2 million a year when the hospital fully opens next year. (1 April)

TRANSPORT

The Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary Norman Baker announced plans to reopen thousands of miles of railway track and stations, a £3 billion Rail Expansion Fund would be set up for councils and transport authorities to bid for money to pay for rail improvement and expansion projects. (5 April)

The Department for Transport provisionally agreed to contribute £33.4 million to a new bypass in North Yorshire, Tranport Minister Sadiq Khan said that the scheme will consist of a 4.8-mile new road with the potential to remove up to 60% of traffic from the existing road. Government funding means that North Yorkshire County Council will now move forward with a detailed plan for the scheme. (1 April)

Tim O’Toole’s reappointment as Chief Executive of Tube Lines proved controversial as the PPP consortium claimed the Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Transport for London (TfL) are blocking the appointment. The relationship between Tube Lines and TfL has deteriorated due to a funding dispute leaving both sides facing serious shortfalls. (1 April)

OLYMPICS AND 2012
The Communities and Local Government (CLG) department published responses toits consultation on the ’ Thames Gateway eco-quarter’. (1 April)

FLOODING
The Flood and Water Management Bill reached the House of Lords report stage where Members of the Lords had a further opportunity to consider proposed changes to the Bill. (8 April)
The Welsh Government’s Environment Minister Jane Davidson attended the eigth national Learning to Live with Flooding conference in Cardiff and praised the work of engineers preparing the rehion for flooding. (1 April)

POLICE, FIRE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
The North West Fire and Rescue Services announced the preferred bidder for its £47 million PPP project, Balfour Beatty will undertake the design, construction, funding and provision of facilities management for 16 community fire stations, seven of which are in Merseyside, five in Cumbria, and four in Lancashire. (6 April)