It’s a big week for the Green Deal but don’t forget about the little guy
In a big week for the coalition, the Green Deal was launched with the promise of £14bn investment over 10 years. And at last! The government has a plan.
It’s not simply one big idea. It’s not going to transform your fortunes overnight. But after months of rhetoric and bad mouthing of the previous regime, it’s a start and, boy, does the industry need it right now. “We want to be the most pro-business government ever,” declared Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude on Monday. And with it he outlined a package of reforms to make the government a fit-for-purpose client. Much of the sentiment has been outlined by Paul Morrell already, but there were a couple of surprises too. A shiny new academy will train civil servants to be collaborative procurement experts. You can also expect a new open door policy in a bid to make the government 40% faster to do business with.
Meanwhile, Maude intends to hotfoot it over to Brussels to “negotiate” for a “radical simplification” of relevant European directives, and we can only wish him luck with that one.
This procurement overhaul is just the beginning of the story. In a big week for the coalition, housebuilders received a boost in the form of a £1bn mortgage indemnity scheme that could fuel up to 15% more homes being built. It’s an emergency measure as, depressingly, the volume of housebuilding has fallen to levels not seen since 1923. On top of that we have the widely trailed big blockbuster plans for a £50bn infrastructure boost to be announced officially by the chancellor in his Autumn Statement next week. But what does the detail of this growth agenda look like exactly? And can it work?
Simply, it puts the UK’s long-established financial institutions centre stage, armed with a safer regulatory environment in order to invest ahead of foreign competition. It means many more toll roads, rail projects and water schemes as well as additional social infrastructure, which will involve the government either underwriting construction risk or, more likely, underwriting the returns to institutional investors. It has to work as there is little alternative. The deal has to be lucrative enough to attract the private money required and simple enough for everyone to understand. We give you a preview of the thinking.
Finally, and after all the big number headlines have been written and digested, the government will be seen to be thinking about the little guy too. In a bid to stimulate SMEs - and get Britain spending again - expect a lending easing scheme, which happens to be the number one demand from specialist firms and the wider construction supply chain. So is this the “most pro-business government ever”? Well, try telling that to the solar industry right now. But next week’s Autumn Statement is likely to be a good start - and remember: all political parties will have growth at the top of their agenda when gearing up for their election campaigns in the not so distant future.
Tom Broughton is Building’s brand director