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Last edited 22 Oct 2020
New deal for infrastructure 2020
On 30 June 2020, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a government initiative to include infrastructure redevelopment as one of the key facets of its post COVID-19 economic growth strategy. The plan also looks to create jobs and support skills acquisition associated with infrastructure construction.
The government has announced its intention to fund £5bn in capital investment projects in parts of the economy that have been underfunded in the past. This will include areas such as residential construction, hospital maintenance and construction, mental health housing, road and bridge repairs, rail infrastructure, school construction and local government facility upgrades.
The focus of activity will go beyond cities, with the intention of creating a national approach to this renewal programme. Additional direction will be offered later in 2020 in the form of a National Infrastructure Strategy that will review energy networks, road and rail, flood defences and waste. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are to be included in the programme.
The Prime Minister announced his commitment to build new low carbon homes on areas (such as brownfield sites) that have previously been undeveloped. New broadband and transportation services will be necessary to support these communities.
The programme plans to incorporate environmental issues. It will feature an annual tree planting scheme with a commitment to plant more than 75,000 acres of trees each year by the year 2025. Money will also be allocated for local conservation projects, flood defences and job creation in the green sector.
 Emphasis on education
The Prime Minister spoke of his support for jobs and skills development, whilst acknowledging the shortcomings of past budgets. He said, “We have failed to invest enough in further education and give young people the practical training and further education they need, and so we are investing massively now in education”.
The new deal will allocate more than £14bn for primary and secondary education through 2023 and will include a 10 year building programme. It will begin with £1bn for the first 50 schools and an investment of £1.5 bn in a refurbishment programme for the Further Education sector.
During the speech, the Prime Minister mentioned an Opportunity Guarantee that will be offered to young people entering the job market. The purpose of this initiative is to make apprenticeship or in-work placement opportunities available to these new members of the workforce, to help them “...maintain the skills and confidence they need to find the job that is right for them” according to the Prime Minister.
Whilst the announcement has been broadly welcomed, there has been some criticism that this amounts to a re-statement of existing commitments.
Commenting on the announcement, ECA CEO Steve Bratt said: “This substantive commitment to infrastructure investment is good news for both citizens and our industry. Government spending will help drive the industry to recovery following the recent pandemic and lockdown. Furthermore, with many firms either struggling to survive or holding back their own investment plans, this major investment will help protect jobs and the viability of small businesses."
ECA Director of Legal and Business Rob Driscoll added: "The injection of Government spend into infrastructure is the first of a number of strategic steps within the CLC roadmap to ‘restart’ the industry economy... ECA will work with CLC and Government to ensure that the value (rather than cost) procurement models used to implement this pipeline embeds the fairer and collaborative contractual and payment practices CLC is targeting to re-set and re-invent our economy to the benefit of SME inclusion.”
Caroline Gumble, Chief Executive of the CIOB, said: "Construction is vital to the economy, and it is reassuring to see the Government acknowledge the importance of the sector. This will provide a necessary boost to employment, which is not only essential in rebuilding the economy, but vital for retaining skills and talent in our industry... It is also a prime opportunity to look at building quality and make sure that remains at the top of the industry’s agenda as this has been one of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry in recent years. We hope that this is the first announcement amongst many, dedicated to the improvement of quality standards for our buildings.”
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