Labour leader made comments after visit to Mace site in City last week

Keir Starmer has said construction will be one of the sectors key to growing the wider economy under a Labour government.

The Labour leader was joined by shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves last week for a tour of the new HSBC headquarters, called Panorama St Pauls, being built in the City of London by Mace.

The 1980s block at 81 Newgate Street is the former home of BT but is being turned into a new headquarters for the banking giant once it moves out of Canary Wharf with the first staff due to move in next year.


Source: Labour Party

The Labour leader pictured recently at Mace’s Panorama St Pauls scheme with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves

The visit took place a day after last week’s Budget – which was given a lukewarm response by the industry – and was intended to highlight the importance of the construction sector to Labour’s plans for the future of the UK economy.

“Sites like Panorama St Paul’s show the potential of our economy and construction industry if we set the right conditions for growth,” Starmer said. “But it’s clear we need to see that right across the country, if we’re to get the UK back on track and drive the growth and investment we so desperately need.”

Starmer pledged to tackle the industry’s skills shortage and said firms needed “proper support” to do so: “An incoming Labour government will overhaul the apprenticeship levy and implement a new ‘growth and skills’ levy to give them and their employers more freedom to develop their careers further. We’ll create the conditions for growth and back apprentices on their journey to delivering the growth of the future.”

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There are growing signs the industry is looking to Labour to help grow the economy and with it construction activity.

Richard Steer, the chair of Gleeds, said: “Construction and property are bellwether industrial sectors and our numbers make grim reading, with construction activity recording almost flat output levels in February after five months of falls. This is the core issue that the chancellor should have been addressing – how to inspire confidence, fan growth and improve productivity. This was a Budget to stop us bleeding out before the election, not a long-term recovery plan.”

Mace chief of staff Hannah Vickers, who accompanied Starmer on his visit, said: “What our industry is asking for are solid proposals to reform the planning system, give confidence in the infrastructure and construction pipeline, and in turn improve productivity across all nations and regions – which is why we welcome Labour’s plan to get Britain building again.”

Vistry chief executive Greg Fitzgerald said he will vote Labour for the first time at the next general election and in an interview with Building said the planning system had to be fixed urgently. “Planning absolutely needs to be sorted out. Planning is broken in this country.

“For the first time in my life, I’m going to vote Labour. I think Labour will, from what I’ve heard and seen, take housing forward from the Conservatives [on] planning and affordable housing delivery. I think that they will look at it.”

Last year, Redrow founder Steve Morgan, a £1m-plus donor to the Tories under Boris Johnson’s leadership, called the government “anti-housebuilding”.

Starmer has previously accused Rishi Sunak of giving in to Nimbys and Morgan said: “He’s right. I can’t get my head round it. He’s right.”

Last week’s Budget underwhelmed many in the industry with Peter Hogg, UK cities director at Arcadis, admitting chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s speech contained “little for the built-environment sector”.

And Mike Burton, land director at Hampshire housebuilder Metis Homes, said the budget was “rather disappointing” and “did very little for the housing industry as a whole”, adding: “The lack of any incentive for those trying to get onto the housing ladder is a great loss.”