The industry's latest reactions to the chancellor's success in putting sustainability issues at the heart of the spending agenda
Paul King, chief executive, UK Green Building Council
It’s good to see extra money for cutting carbon in social housing, additional investment in low carbon new homes and some funding of green refurbishment in public sector buildings. Government has sensibly provided additional funding for the Low Carbon Buildings Programme, which will make a real difference to some of the UK’s emerging green businesses.
But this falls short of a comprehensive strategy to put low-carbon buildings at the heart of economic recovery. More could have been done to really make green refurbishment affordable and attractive to home owners, businesses and the public sector, in order to both cut carbon emissions and create green-collar jobs. This is a wasted opportunity to map a truly low carbon route out of this recession.
Chris Blythe, chief executive, CIOB
£500m for housing and £100m for local authorities to spend on energy efficient housing developments is small beer for an industry that has the capacity to turnover £100bn a year. The big question is when that investment will come in; if it’s too late the jobs will have gone.
The measures around the green activity won’t make any immediate difference as they are so far into the future. Overall it’s hard to see where the construction industry goes in this budget.
Sunand Prasad, president, the RIBA
We welcome the setting of the first carbon budget in the world - now the real challenge will be to meet this budget. The scale of the programme for improving the energy efficiency of existing housing is small, yet retrofitting our existing stock is crucial to tackling climate change. We strongly believe a reduction in VAT to 5% for home maintenance and repair would be a low cost measure which would stimulate further employment for architects and other professionals.
Richard Steer, senior partner, Gleeds
Against a background of arguably the worst recession in recent memory the chancellor was a bit like a tired doctor offering an elastoplast solution for a haemorrhaging economy that has gone into shock. There is talk of increased efficiency, bringing money forward and a vague offer of help to streamline the planning process but this is too little and too late.
There is some expenditure that will cheer those involved in the green sector but little of short term benefit for our struggling industry with the only glint of hope involving enhanced expenditure for rail infrastructure and a vastly over-optimistic prediction of a modest 1.25% growth next year.
Tom Foulkes, director general, the Institution of Civil Engineers
There is much to be welcomed in this budget. The commitment to maintaining capital investment to 2012 will hopefully reduce the danger of a double-dip recession occurring in the engineering/construction industry.
Long-term, the principle of putting green jobs at the centre of a new low-carbon economy is a sound one. Therefore, the extra money for offshore wind and other renewable projects, incentives for CHP and carbon capture technologies, and the introduction of carbon budgets is to be welcomed.
However, we need to ensure that the UK has the infrastructure to enable us to properly exploit these emerging sectors.
Geoff Arnold, chairman, UK Timber Frame Association
The housebuilding sector is in major crisis. The chancellor’s announcement today has not proved to be either positive or new – the measures don’t go far enough to tackling the housing dilemma we are currently facing. In particular, a lot more investment needs to be pumped into the social housing sector.
We are encouraged by the government’s commitment to invest £100m for local authorities to build energy efficient houses. Timber frame is highly responsive to such needs. We have the ability to deliver high quality, energy efficient homes cost effectively and, through the use of offsite construction, very quickly. However, the advent of this new housing provision needs to be the start of something big, not a symbolic gesture.
Brian Berry, director of external affairs, the Federation of Master Builders
The chancellor had an opportunity today to invest in our housing but instead has offered a lukewarm package of financial measures that will do little to increase the housing supply or to make our homes more energy efficient. The amounts on offer of £500m to support the construction industry and kick-start stalled construction projects of new homes, coupled with the £100m for local authorities to invest in energy efficient improvements are a drop in the ocean.
Alasdair Young, senior engineer, Buro Happold
CHP plants have been subsidised by an exemption from the Climate Change Levy - the tax on industry's energy use. This exemption has been due to expire but it was announced in today’s budget that the levy will remain in place from 2013.
Whilst we welcome the retention of the levy and recognise its effectiveness in encouraging industrial CHP development, further financial incentives are required to encourage the use of CHP in the urban environment, as the current levy has historically shown to be unsuccessful in that respect.
Garvis Snook, chief executive officer, Rok
I am disappointed that the chancellor has chosen to focus entirely on building new properties with his measures in this budget when there are already around a million homes standing empty across the UK. He has missed a massive opportunity to safeguard the jobs of skilled tradespeople by not cutting the VAT on work to repair and maintain existing properties. Refurbishment projects provide many more job opportunities than new build schemes do and they encourage better, more environmentally friendly use of what we already have rather than using up green spaces and scarce raw materials.
Jeremy Leggett, executive chairman, Solarcentury
This budget gets us on the road with a green new deal in the UK. In the context of significant tightening elsewhere in the budget, the sums made available for subsidies, loans, investment funds and capital allowances in energy efficiency and renewables can make a difference, and create many jobs. Industry and government now needs to pull together to execute. We have some catching up to do.
Derry Newman, chief executive, Solarcentury
Today's welcome Budget announcement of an additional £45m for the Low Carbon Buildings Programme should end the current suspension of photovoltaic grant applications under Phase 2 of the LCBP and enable this sector to plan with confidence for the launch of the feed-in tariff in April 2010. The Treasury is to be congratulated for recognising the important contribution that technologies such as solar PV can make to delivering a low carbon Britain. We look forward to working with the Department for Energy to ensure that the current hiatus in solar PV support is lifted urgently.
John Piggott, associate director, Arup
The additional funding for offshore wind and the new line of credit from the European Investment Bank are both positive measures that should be welcomed. The additional £525m for offshore wind is funded through the Renewables Obligation, so it is a redistribution of an existing budget, rather than new money, but it is important nonetheless. It means that we can make progress with offshore wind and grow an important UK industry at the same time, protecting jobs and in the longer term, competing in the global wind energy market.
The additional £4bn line of credit from the EIB could be very significant and represents a major commitment from the bank. Shortage of good-value credit is a major problem for renewable projects at the moment, which is frustrating because the other economic factors make good sense. Support from EIB is usually dependant on investors matching it with their contribution to a project, so it also represents good use of public funds. Unlike the World Bank, the EIB do lend in euros though, so there is an exchange rate risk to factor in, but the terms offered by EIB are generally good.