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Construction Parliamentary update - 16 July 2010

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

PLANNING

The Welsh Assembly Government has ruled out cuts to capital projects, despite budget cuts handed down by Westminster. Welsh Assembly business and budget Minister Jane Hutt told Assembly Members that the Welsh Government will protect the capital budget so that vital investment in education and housing could continue (13 July).

EDF has launched a stage 2 public consultation process for its ‘preferred proposals’ for the development of Hinkley Point C. The discussions will take place between 9 July and 4 October, during which time EDF will seek feedback from local residents and organisations on its revised plans to build twin EPR reactors beside the existing Hinkley Point power station (13 July).

CONSTRUCTION

A report commissioned by the British Property Federation (BPF) and the Construction Clients’ Group (CCG) has highlighted severe flaws in legislation intended to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of those working in construction. The report indicated that the rules about site safety introduced in 1997 have simply upped the costs associated with construction projects without significantly improving safety standards (14 July).

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the construction industry shed 63,000 jobs in the first three months of 2010. Overall, the industry has seen a massive reduction in employment numbers of 234,000, a 10 per cent reduction over the past year (14 July).

HOUSING

Constructing Excellence has announced that Sustainable Homes and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) are focused on involving residents, landlords and construction professionals in understanding and acting on climate change. A conference will be held at Westminster in September (13 July).

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has released the figures for the latest Housing Market Survey indicating that oversupply of housing could lead to a reduction in prices. The survey reported that increasing house prices fell to +9 in June compared to +26 in May, the lowest reading since July 2009. The RICS highlighted the abolition of Home Information Packs as a key factor driving the decrease (13 July).

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has announced that more than £30 million of funding has been released to take forward schemes providing more than 1,000 new and affordable homes in the South-east, with £390 million funding made available to the HCA nationally (9 July).

Housing Minister Grant Shapps attended the Housing Design Awards and called on the country’s architects to ensure their designs deliver more benefits for the local community especially since design would be even more important in the new era of community-driven development (9 July).

EDUCATION

Camden Council will investigate possible legal action against the Government following the cancellation of 14 of the London Council’s school building projects. The London borough, in conjunction with other local authorities, is fighting the decision by education secretary Michael Gove to scrap rebuilding programmes for schools across England (15 July).

Southampton City Council has pledged to spend £13.1 million on schools projects, following the Government’s decision to scrap Southampton’s £200 million Building Schools for the Future scheme. The south coast local authority will combine money set aside for its BSF scheme and any additional money the council can secure to improve local Southampton schools (15 July).

The Welsh Assembly Government has announced a third major funding package of £144.8 million in new capital projects for schools across Wales. Welsh Assembly education minister Leighton Andrews confirmed that this will raise the school capital investment programme up to £702.8 million in total across all authorities in Wales (14 July).

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for the cancelled Building Schools for the Future programme to be eligible for submission under its replacement programme. According to the LGA, more than £160 million has been spent by local authorities preparing for projects that have now been cancelled (13 July).

During the House of Commons debate on the Building Schools for the Future Programme, education secretary Michael Gove claimed that the Government intended to keep building new schools despite scrapping the programme (12 July).

Construction News reports that Birmingham City University re-tendered the job to build its new City Centre campus following the halt of the procurement process due to the proposed high speed rail route. The first phase of the new campus development is worth £50 million and scheduled to run from August 2011 to January 2018 (12 July).

HEALTH

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has confirmed that the Government will provide £70 million towards the redevelopment of West Cumberland Hospital over three years (9 July).

TRANSPORT

Essex County Council has announced a £3 billion highways and transportation contract for a private sector partner to deliver a variety of maintenance and management services for the 10-year scheme (13 July).

Major of London Boris Johnson has addressed an audience of top business leaders at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and warned that cutting vital investment in London’s transport system would hurt London’s business and damage the UK economy (8 July).

OLYMPICS AND 2012

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has reported “solid progress” following the most recent Coordination Commission visit to London. During the visit, Coordination Commission chairman Denis Oswald met Prime Minister David Cameron, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt and Olympics minister Hugh Robertson, as well as the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, at 10 Downing Street (8 July).

POLICE, FIRE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Justice secretary Ken Clarke has set out proposals to reform the prison estate, unveiling five key areas for structural reform within the Ministry of Justice. The Labour government had planned to build five new PFI prisons to cope with the record 85,000 prison population but now the Ministry of Justice will only consider new building projects to replace ‘inefficient and worn out prisons’ (14 July).

DEFENCE

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published its report into the Ministry of Defence and its estate. The NAO reported that the MOD has “strengthened its estate planning and achieved significant receipts from disposal of property but the changes are not sufficient to drive value for money for the taxpayer” (9 July).