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Prime minister talks to Construction News at Balfour Beatty site

The Conservative Party’s long-term plan on infrastructure is working, the prime minister has told Construction News, with nuclear and shale gas, Crossrail 2, High Speed 2 and rail electrification in its sights if re-elected in 2015.

Speaking exclusively to Construction News, David Cameron said part of the party’s long-term economic plan was building infrastructure for Britain, and that the construction industry would continue to be important in improving the UK’s economy.

Mr Cameron said: “What we have done is put in place a National Infrastructure Plan, supported apprenticeships, tried to help with financial constraints and reform the planning system.

“I think there’s a real manifesto of things that we’ve done to help the construction industry build Britain’s future infrastructure.

“What we will be saying at the next election is the long-term plan is working, but it isn’t complete yet.

“If you want to complete the plan, Britain’s on the right track, let’s stick on that track and go ahead with projects here locally like Battersea, High Speed 2, with the renewal of the nuclear industry, with extracting shale gas, with big infrastructure projects,” he added.

“Where there’s a good opportunity for infrastructure to add to our economy and the value of our economy, we’ve been the government that likes to say ‘yes’”

Prime minister David Cameron

Asked whether Crossrail 2 would be one of those projects if the Conservatives are successful in the general election next May, Mr Cameron said he was “looking at” the proposed scheme, which industry wants to see built after Crossrail is completed to transfer skilled workers.

“We’re funding a study into [Crossrail 2] – we’ve been discussing it with the mayor and I look forward to seeing the results.

“I think you can judge this government on the fact that it has, when given the opportunity, gone ahead with big schemes. Crossrail 1 – we made sure that happened.

“Obviously, HS2 is a really important project, electrification of rail lines – look what’s happening with the Great Western main line, the Midland main line and the Transpennine line.

“Where there’s a good opportunity for infrastructure to add to our economy and the value of our economy, we’ve been the government that likes to say ‘yes’.”

PM hails Balfour Beatty’s £1bn SME spending

The prime minister spoke to Construction News at the site of Balfour Beatty’s £80m student accommodation tower for Urbanest in Westminster, London, where the contractor announced it will spend a record £1bn with small businesses in 2014.

Mr Cameron said: “I would like to congratulate Balfour Beatty for spending £1bn with SMEs over the course of 2014, it’s a really important part of our economy and big companies like Balfour Beatty taking this approach will be a big boost to a lot of important businesses in the future.”

Balfour Beatty said its UK construction business has more than 8,000 active supply chain partners, of which over 75 per cent are SMEs.

The £1bn of spending with SME businesses is a 33 per cent increase on Balfour Beatty’s 2013 small business spending and will support the government’s goal of 25 per cent of central government spending going to SMEs by 2015.

Balfour Beatty chief executive Nick Pollard told Construction News its strategy was to leave a lasting legacy on all of its projects, including by creating jobs and apprenticeships and spending money with local companies.

CBI director for competitive markets Matthew Fell said: “Small, medium and large businesses work together closely day-in-day-out across the UK economy to create jobs and drive growth.

“Balfour Beatty’s record investment is an excellent example of the importance to big companies to nurture and support strong supply chains within their industries.”

Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK chief executive Nick Pollard said: “It really matters to us that we spend the maximum we can with UK suppliers. We pay close attention to it because it matters to who we want to be as a business.”

The contractor tracks each pound it spends on its projects across the UK to monitor its spending with small businesses and with those local to its projects.

Mr Pollard said some clients valued its commitment to using a local supply chain more than others.

“I suspect it depends on two things: who their business wants to be, and it also depends on their local leadership.

“No matter what you say at corporate level, the quality of delivery and outcome is totally dependent on local leadership and the person responsible for delivery and leadership.”

“Increasingly, we try to trade with customers who share those values and enjoy repeat business”

Nick Pollard, Balfour Beatty

Mr Pollard added that Balfour Beatty would increasingly look to work with those clients that valued using a sustainable supply chain and creating local training and job opportunities on projects, including Urbanest, Heathrow Airport and “some” central government departments.

“Increasingly, we try to trade with customers who share those values and enjoy repeat business… with whom we can refine the way we do business together again and again, so it’s a more useful outcome to them and a more useful outcome to us and everyone with whom we work.

“It’s easier [to do that] now than it was two or three years ago, and it will become increasingly easy so long as the economy continues to perform as it is, as the choice of work becomes broader and deeper and that’s a good place to be.”

The prime minister met with site workers and apprentices building the new student accommodation and some of the SMEs in Balfour Beatty’s supply chain, including consulting engineers DSSR and furniture solutions specialist Deanestor.

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