The construction industry has welcomed the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review announced on Tuesday.
Construction Confederation chief executive Jennie Price said the commitments to increasing investment in transport, school repairs and social housing were encouraging.
She said: “From the construction industry’s point of view, it all looks very positive. It indicates a real step change in transport provision. And the target of improving 17 000 schools by 2002 will give the government the challenge of adopting a standard for very good value in renovation.”
The government has also announced a 16% rise in the DETR Construction Directorate’s budget for innovation and best practice. The directorate will receive an additional £14m over the next three years.
Investment in transport is set to double in real terms to £14bn in 2000-04. Details on how much will be spent on building and repairing road and rail infrastructure were unavailable as Building went to press. They will be disclosed when the DETR’s 10-year plan for transport is announced.
Social housing is to receive an extra £2.5bn over the next three years. The government plans to refurbish 500 000 homes by 2004, although no targets have been given for new housing.
Funding for the regional development agencies is to increase by £500m in 2003-04. They will also be given greater powers.
Industry commentators said they were unsure how these funds would be used. Steven King, policy officer for regeneration at the RICS, said: “It is still difficult to know exactly what is happening with the RDAs. It is a large increase, and as such, a positive move. But in the short term, we would like to see more money in direct development, otherwise there will be no more new projects.”
Alastair Stewart, an analyst at investment bank Flemings, said the growth forecast for construction could double because of the amount of repair and maintenance work now in the pipeline. He said: “Although the majority of cash for health and education is not aimed towards the construction sector, the sheer backlog of repairs will mean a lot of front-end investment.”