The UKCG campaign is a chance to make a clear case for investment in construction
Of all the lobbying of government that has taken place during the recession by construction firms and trade bodies to promote the benefits of investing in construction, the single most memorable, and powerful, message has to have been that put forward by the UK Contractors Group three years ago: every £1 invested in construction generates £2.84 of GDP.
This stark fact, based on detailed research from economists LEK, lifted the argument beyond industry self-interest to make a clear-cut, broader economic case for investment. Predictably, the campaign was not enough to stem the tide of austerity, but it has undoubtedly resonated within Whitehall - at last week’s Government Construction Summit, it was still being referenced by officials to justify spending in areas that the government has prioritised.
The UKCG campaign makes a highly visible case for investment at a time when the industry has an unparalleled opportunity to force itself to the centre of attention
For this reason, it is great to see that UKCG has this week launched a reinvigorated version of its campaign for investment, called Creating Britain’s Future, timed to coincide with the buzz around construction’s part in delivering the Olympic Games. Stephen Ratcliffe, UKCG’s chief executive, says the campaign is aimed at emphasising the benefits of the sector not just to government officials, but also to the general public, and to foreign visitors arriving in Britain for the Games.
By the end of this week, banners promoting the benefits of construction spending should have appeared on 50 sites in the capital, and more will follow across the UK. Its timing is also a means of sidestepping the Olympic no marketing rights protocol by drawing attention to the industry’s skills and achievements, something Building continues to do through its own Building 2012 campaign.
The Creating Britain’s Future campaign is being backed by many of the country’s highest profile contractors - including Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine and Kier - as well as by the Confederation of British Industry. But the messages it conveys are equally beneficial to all sections of the industry, and - especially given the recent resurfacing of complaints within the government that our industry does not speak with a single voice - it would be an even more powerful tool if other professions, and their representative bodies, lent their support to the initiative.
Throughout the recession, there has been a simple, headline argument that all sections of the industry have agreed on: spending in the sector would promote employment, boost short-term GDP and have a long-term impact on the UK’s competitiveness (just think of the secret government report into Building Schools for the Future, exposed by Building last week, which showed improvements in two-thirds of schools post-investment). But, amid age old differences over detailed issues such as the benefits of different procurement methods and the best way to engage government, this overarching argument has not always had the clarity it deserves.
The UKCG campaign offers a chance to make a highly visible, clear case for investment at a time when, marketing rights or no marketing rights, the industry has an unparalleled opportunity to force itself to the centre of attention. And it’s one that the industry should grasp with both hands.
Sarah Richardson, editor