So, what did Gordon Brown do for – or to – us in the Budget? Depending on your degree of cynicism, he either put 42 new hospitals in the post, or republicised those already sent. Either way, the good news is that a glistening 21-century NHS will boost employment through building facilities as well as staffing them, as Lord McAlpine observes (page 33). Construction will, of course, have to pay its share of the bill, in the form of higher National Insurance. And, as a nasty consequence, the NI hike will encouraging "self-employment" and the black economy (see news). Just what we need. Overall, though, the chancellor has is reaping the rewards of a resilient low inflation, high growth economy.

So much for Brown. What of Labour in general? Next week, it will be five years since its return to power. Have things got better, as its irritating election anthem promised? Well, you can't say it hasn't been trying. Ministers have come up with an initiative for every affliction – from poor productivity to mediocre public architecture. Not to mention environmental damage, urban deprivation and skills shortages (pages 24-26). Out of this Brobdignagian agenda have come real achievements. This year's Building Awards were won by firms that have embraced the Egan agenda (see supplement), an initiative of John Prescott. The safety drive is galvanizing contractors, CABE is stirring architects, and the new Building Regulations will force a rethink of everything from glass towers to design and build. Other ideas were overambitious. Egan himself says the government is a bad client, and Lord Rogers despairs of his urban renaissance. The PFI and the quality mark limp on and best value never got moving. And what happened to integrated transport? Too much, too soon.

Almost a year into its second term, though, Labour is changing. And the watershed may have been last Wednesday's Budget, with its throwback to 1970s tax-and-spend policy. Brown's message was that European levels of taxation will be needed to deliver European-standard public services. It's a grim prospect for firms feeling the pain of the NI sting. But if the chancellor applies the NHS approach to, say, transport, construction will get its money back – with interest.