Industry figures offer their responses to Alistair Darling's budget
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman, Home Builders Federation
We are delighted that money has been made available to unlock mothballed sites. We now need to work with the government to identify sites and get work started as quickly as possible. The benefits of doing so are quite clear in terms of employment and for the wider economy.
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.
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.
Stephen Stone, chief executive, Crest Nicholson
This is the tightest budget to have been delivered in many years and the government’s focus on trying to rebalance the UK’s finances is understandable in light of this fact.
Darling’s financial response to the call for government intervention to unfreeze the mortgage market feels somewhat overdue. Equally, mortgage indemnity guarantees have long been brokered as a means of increasing funding and easing future approvals, and I believe that the implementation of government securities will be welcomed across the industry.
The fact that the stamp duty holiday has been extended will do much to support those at the lower levels of the market and, forming part of a package of wider measures, will be integral in maintaining a flow of transactions.
David Orr, chief executive, the National Housing Federation
The chancellor has taken a step in the right direction by identifying some clear ways of kick-starting housebuilding but unfortunately he hasn't been bold enough. The government is right to take a stake in housing projects where work has stalled and to make it easier for social housing to be built, but ministers needed to go further.
We are in the midst of major economic and housing crises and the chancellor should simply have backed our call to spend £6.35bn of public money on helping housing associations deliver 100,000 new social homes over the next two years.
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.
Dave Sheridan, chief operating officer, Apollo Property Services Group
The package of measures to increase and improve social housing stock is great news and a proactive approach to breathe new life in the sector. We are promised that 12,000 more homes will be brought up to Decent Homes standard, which will be a positive step if achieved. The £100m announced for local authorities to build energy-efficient homes is also welcome, although we need to ensure that the focus is not just on delivering sustainable new housing but also environmentally retro-fitting existing housing stock. It’s not just a question of money though. We need faster procurement methods on deliverable projects if funding is to have any real effect when the industry really needs it - over the next 12-18 months.
Alan Ritchie, general secretary, Ucatt
It is right for the government to target housing. Over a million people are in desperate need of good accommodation. However, as money is limited it should be spent on the most effective way of getting construction workers back to work. That is by building new homes for rent and not propping up speculative private housing developments.
The government has a genuine opportunity to reframe the housing market and to bring to an end the 30-year obsession that you are only a success if you own your own home. By redeveloping a mixed housing market the government can bring to an end the boom and bust culture which has afflicted housing for the last 20 years.
Gillian Charlesworth, director of external affairs, the RICS
The chancellor has recognised the need for assistance to the housing market as essential to helping Britain’s economic recovery. Government action to support mortgage lending should help translate buyer interest, which has picked up in recent months, into actual sales. Additional funding for HomeBuy Direct and extending the stamp duty holiday should also encourage those wishing to get on the housing ladder. Measures announced by the chancellor will help move towards a sustainable and vibrant housing market for the future.
Paul King, chief executive of the 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.
Sunand Prasad, president of the RIBA
The 2009 budget carries little positive news for the architecture industry amidst a global economic crisis. Regretfully, the Government in the current economic climate has found it impossible to make a significant investment in the long-term future, whether in housing or infrastructure. Amongst the few chinks of light is the stimulus for housing, but the 10,000 homes is a fraction of what is needed.
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.
Julia Evans, chief executive, National Federation of Builders
We are particularly disappointed that yet again the government has missed the opportunity to reduce VAT to 5% on domestic repair, maintenance and improvement work. This was the ideal time to make the change – a reduction in VAT would have stimulated work in the sector, creating jobs, bringing a larger proportion of this work into the formal tax-paying economy with accompanying benefits for the treasury through increased revenue from payment of income tax, corporation tax and national insurance contributions. There would even have been benefits for the customer, no longer attracted to cheap deals and shoddy work from rogue builders. It was win-win-win all round. The government was faced with an open goal and has put the ball in the stands. Very disappointing.
John Piggott, associate-director, Arup
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.