Contractor says Brexit makes a joined-up plan for the economy more vital

Balfour Beatty has urged Theresa May’s government to get on with laying out an industrial strategy, arguing that a joined-up plan for the economy has been made more vital by Brexit.

Recommendations include ensuring the UK construction sector remains attractive to both overseas and domestic workers, harnessing infrastructure spending to boost the whole economy, and identifiying where state intervention can be a help rather than a hindrance.

Balfour also urges for clarity on immigration policy to ensure major infrastructure programmes including HS2 and Hinkley can be delivered.

In a white paper setting out recommendations, Balfour Beatty says: “A robust industrial strategy could prove particularly important following Brexit in helping the country build on its key national strengths and take advantage of opportunities that emerge during and after the negotiations.

“We believe that, designed correctly, a strong industrial strategy can contribute to increasing economic growth and resilience, alongside a more balanced society.

“The key balance to be struck is between a healthy market economy and the right level of central intervention.”

Balfour’s top recommendations

  1. The overarching objective guiding the industrial strategy should be sustained and sustainable productivity across the whole economy.
  2. The Government’s industrial strategy should seek to establish stability and certainty in the political and policy landscape.
  3. Some industries should be used as cross sector enablers in the strategy. Infrastructure is a good candidate for this as it underpins productivity growth in many sectors and across the whole country. Innovation and skills are two other areas which share the same properties.
  4. Effective, reliable infrastructure should underpin Government’s industrial strategy. Infrastructure has the potential to stimulate the economy in the short term, offset uncertainty and support productivity in the long term. Indications from the Prime Minister that delivery of infrastructure projects, increased house-building and devolution of powers to regions and cities outside London will be a focus of the industrial strategy are very welcome and have Balfour Beatty’s full support.
  5. An industrial strategy must support sectors where the UK has genuine expertise and a strong competitive edge, enabling them to take advantage of opportunities as they emerge.
  6. An early and integrated policy response to what happens following the vote to leave the EU will be important. A plan to both retain the skills of those who have migrated here and to ensure that the UK remains an attractive place for talented people to move to should be a key element of Government’s industrial strategy.
  7. The industrial strategy should also seek to address the skills shortage in the UK directly, by continuing to support the upskilling of our own workforce. We therefore welcome the plans to increase the number of apprentices and introduce the Apprenticeship Levy.
  8. An industrial strategy should not see government intervene too much in the economy. Policies which ensure that the regulatory and tax systems encourage business to thrive are welcome for example, but too much state direction and policies which prop up inefficient industries are unlikely to help the economy in the long-term.
  9. There must be room for new sectors, especially those industries in which we will be internationally competitive going forward, to be supported by the strategy. These areas will provide growth in the future.
  10. The strategy should respond to the needs of all areas of the economy. This means it has to deliver across a wide range of geographic locations. It has also to support small and medium business opportunities as well as very large enterprises