As Westminster plans for the election, now is the time for construction to show its importance to the country’s growth
We may be barely a week into 2015 but already the season of goodwill has come crashing to a halt in Westminster, where political leaders wasted no time in drawing battle lines for an election that will dominate the news agenda over the first half of the year.
Public finances, predictably, have been the subject of the opening blows, with both Labour and the Conservatives claiming that the other can’t be trusted to balance the deficit and spending, or, apparently, to undertake basic maths. Amid this clamour of noise and horse-trading, both serious and spurious, which will only ramp up over the next few months, the challenge for the industry is to make itself heard.
Construction’s importance to the UK is beyond argument. The sector contributes roughly £90bn to the economy, accounting for 7% of GDP. On top of this, the results of its work - houses, schools, hospitals, transport links, the ability to generate energy - are fundamental to the success of the country’s ability to provide for its 64 million inhabitants and to compete in the global economy.
Despite the integral importance of the sector to the lives of voters, however, its effective operation is rarely considered in policy decisions at the heart of Westminster. As a result, policies which could help the sector deliver the country’s needs can fall down because of flaws in the detail (as has happened with the Green Deal retrofit programme), are put on the back burner, or are overlooked altogether.
This week, after a year-long open consultation with the industry, Building has launched its bid to persuade politicians to change their approach to the sector: our Agenda 15 Manifesto for Construction. After considering representations from professional bodies, firms, and individuals across the spectrum of the industry, we have drawn up eight recommendations for politicians that we believe would significantly improve the efficiency and future sustainability of the construction sector.
The measures include planning for infrastructure in the longer term, promoting training, and addressing the shortages of homes and school places. Underpinning this, we are asking for the next government to demonstrate a clear commitment to invest in the built environment in order to achieve social, economic and environmental benefits.
Over the coming months, Building will make the case for these recommendations to political parties on the industry’s behalf, and in doing so push home the sector’s importance to the country’s growth. To help us to do this, we are asking readers - whether as individuals or on your firm’s behalf - to show your support for our campaign by visiting www.building.co.uk and adding your name, or by sending a copy of the manifesto to your MP.
The creation of an environment that will enable the industry to perform with greater efficiency and success is not down to government alone: in many areas, the industry itself needs to drive reform. But the government sets the framework within which the industry can do that - and for that reason, the policies it adopts will be crucial to the sector’s ability to meet the country’s needs, not just over the next political cycle, but way beyond.
So our message to the political parties is: listen to the industry now, and act decisively to put in place the measures that will help it to help itself. And if you do, the construction sector will be ready to respond in kind.
Sarah Richardson, editor