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Construction Parliamentary Update - 18 March 2011

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

PPP/PFI

Welsh Assembly First Minister Carwyn Jones AM has said that he is not in favour of pursuing private sector funding of projects because he believes that PFI is not good value for money. Partnerships Bulletin reports that the First Minister attended the Institute of Welsh Affairs conference and explained to delegates that he supported the use of public sector borrowing powers to create more infrastructure investment (14 March).

PLANNING

According to a report published by the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee the intended abolition of regional spatial planning strategies will leave a vacuum at the heart of the English planning system which could have profound social, economic and environmental consequences set to last for many years. The report followed a recent enquiry by the committee examining the abolition of England’s regional strategic planning system (14 March).

CONSTRUCTION

The latest Government employment figures for construction showed that the final quarter for last year saw a further 8,000 jobs shed from construction, taking the total workforce to just 2,128,000. Since the peak in September 2008, nearly a quarter of a million jobs have been lost in construction, equivalent to about one in 10 of the total workforce (16 March).

In a joint press conference Labour leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls launched the Labour Party growth plan. The plans includes key initiatives to support the construction industry with £1.2 billion funding for the construction of new homes, generating more than 2,000 jobs and 1500 construction apprenticeships (14 March).

HOUSING

According to the latest report published by the Institute for Public Policy (IPPR) England faces a shortfall of 750,000 homes by 2025. The report analysed official government projections and concludes that if the economy bounces back the gap between supply and demand could be equivalent to the entire housing demand of the populations of Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle combined (14 March).

HEALTH

The UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI), a charitable medical research institute at St Pancras in central London, announced the appointment of Laing O’Rourke as its main contractor. UKCMRI and Laing O’Rourke are setting up a community liaison group to meet monthly to ensure the views of local people on the building process are heard and keep residents up-to-date on the progress of the development. Construction work is expected to begin on the site in late Spring (11 March).

TRANSPORT

Talks to end the stalemate on the £545 million Edinburgh tram scheme finished with an agreement to meet again in the coming weeks. A statement by Tie, the council-owned tram developer, said there had been “constructive engagement” with the City of Edinburgh Council, Government agency Transport Scotland and the construction consortium BSC. A joint statement said they are now firming up the framework for their future working arrangements (16 March).

In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph, 21 signatories, including former Tory Chancellor Lord Lawson of Blaby, expressed concern over Government plans to spend over £30 billion on a new high-speed rail line. The letter says that “it would be wrong to spend that much…on a train set that only a minority of fortunate passengers will use”. The letter stated that the project, which could cost as much as £34 billion and involves a London-Birmingham new line, was not what the economy needed. In the House of Commons Senior Labour MP Barry Sheerman called on Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond to “ignore the deniers” and to continue with the high-speed rail plans (10 March).

OLYMPICS AND 2012

The Wellcome Trust put forward a £1 billion bid to takeover most of the Olympic Park after the Games. The Trust is already bidding for the Athletes’ Village which will be turned into 2,800 apartments post 2012. Its latest offer is a speculative bid for the freehold of the land including the main stadium, aquatics centre and media centre (17 March).

POLICE, FIRE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A £40 million deal to build four new community fire stations and a life skills centre in Gloucestershire has been approved by the council. Despite concerns that PFI credits for the 25 year scheme would not be made available in last year’s October Spending Review Partnerships Bulletin reports that building work could begin as early as next month (16 March).

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