It may not have the drama of the race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but the battle for the hot seat in London’s City Hall is every bit as fierce.
Recent polls shows it is likely to come down to a shoot-out between Boris and Ken. Whoever finds themselves sipping champagne in City Hall on 2 May, here are four areas that will affect the construction vote …
London Underground. Let Tubelines get on with it. Livingstone has never hidden his contempt for the PPP and it showed in his relationship with Metronet. As far as Metronet’s former lines are concerned, the mayor could do worse than ensure that contracts are not tinkered with after they’ve been let.
Housing. The winner will have £4bn to spend over the next four years. At a time when much of private sector housing is hitting the buffers, this is a formidable carrot for housebuilders. The London Plan sets a target of 30,000 homes a year, half of which must be affordable. To date, both have proven elusive. However, housebuilding levels in London have increased under Livingstone. The next incumbent should, of course, persist with the targets, however they should ensure that there are more family homes and fewer flats.
Renewables. The target of 20% of energy provided from renewable sources has been pretty successful, and this level is becoming the norm for developers. However, the mayor must resist the temptation to ramp this up any further in a bid to appear greener-than-thou, at least until the technology has improved.
Tall buildings. Although ideologically opposed to capitalism, Livingstone has permitted development in clusters around Liverpool Street station and in Canary Wharf in exchange for generous planning settlements. Johnson has promised a “new approach to London’s skyline” amid provocative language about protecting its historic views. As most developers are still nursing their credit crunch traumas, there are unlikely to be many applications for tall buildings for a while. This will change, though, and the new mayor needs to let London’s skyline change with the requirements of its residents and businesses.
Stuart Macdonald, deputy editor
One of the construction industry’s most hallowed traditions is the call for whoever’s producing the Budget to reduce VAT on repair and maintenance. For most of us in the industry it seems a no-brainer, but to appear to be subsidising wealthy developers is reason enough to make it unpalatable to the Treasury. And as public finances enter a straitened phase, cutting VAT on anything seems unlikely. That said, this year the argument in favour is now bolstered by the need to be sustainable: surely doing a building up is better than tearing it down. One idea could be to reduce VAT on refurbs if they achieve glowing energy performance ratings. It wouldn’t be the easiest policy to administer, but surely worth exploring.