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The government must sweep away the barriers to recovery

Ever since it came to power, the government has focused its efforts on achieving economic growth.

Having been battered by the storms of the credit crunch and, more recently, concerns about the health of the eurozone, UK plc needs help to get back on the path to recovery.

Economic indicators suggest earlier efforts to boost growth are not having the desired effect. More needs to be done.

Contributing more than 7 per cent of the UK’s economic output, it is clear the construction industry could, and should, play an important part in helping to stimulate a recovery. But, judging from discussions with those who work in the sector, it is equally clear there are significant barriers that stand in the way.

Unified response

Tackling these requires a unified response. It is for this reason that seven of the industry’s leading representative bodies - the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, the Construction Products Association, the Federation of Master Builders, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the National Federation of Builders and the Scottish Building Federation - have agreed to work together to address the issue.

In a survey we sought the views of our members, who told us that the biggest barrier to growth is the most obvious: shortage of project funding acts as a major barrier to growth. While necessary, the reductions in public spending required to address the budget deficit are undoubtedly holding back growth in the sector.

Firms also reported that projects are often being held on the drawing board, not by a lack of funding, but as a result of bureaucracy. Over-zealous implementation of regulations and unwieldy approvals procedures are blocking new work.

For this reason we welcome the government’s decision to implement the Red Tape Challenge for construction next month. This process should root out the unnecessary procedures, without throwing out effective regulations.

Planning battle

The industry also wants a better planning system, which swiftly and transparently decides on whether to give projects the green light.

The solution to this perennial problem seems close at hand, but it requires the government to keep its nerve in the face of stiff opposition.

We also know that companies are prevented from responding to opportunities for work as a result of a lack of affordable credit. Given the government’s commitments under Project Merlin, we believe the time has come to ensure this blockage is removed.

These are just some of the issues raised in our survey. Next week’s autumn statement offers an opportunity to address all of the points raised.

Whatever the outcome on 29 November, our organisations will continue to campaign to remove these barriers, as we have in the past.

Through this concerted effort, we look forward to the potential for construction to play a key role in returning the UK economy back to vibrant good health.  

Alasdair Reisner is director of external affairs at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association


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