The UK Contractors Group has called on the chancellor to give clearer signals on imminent construction financing and to boost short-term work in the sector by investing in repair and maintenance.
In a letter to George Osborne, UKCG chairman James Wates welcomed recent steps taken by government to boost confidence in the sector, but said the focus over the next 12 months “must be on delivery, and translating these programmes into ‘shovels in the ground’”.
In the run-up to the 5 December autumn statement, Mr Wates said there was now a need for better quality information from the public sector on the construction pipeline and a speeding-up of the flow of projects.
He also called for implementation of the £40 billion UK Guarantees Scheme; more clarity on the future of the private finance initiative; effective ways of releasing institutional investment in construction projects; and early indications on how much capital investment can be expected in the next comprehensive spending review period.
“In the short term, local growth and employment could also be generated by directing resources towards repair and maintenance work,” he added.
“This type of construction work is particularly labour heavy, and would create opportunities for the young unemployed.
“Such works, which might include low-carbon refurbishment of social housing, or renewal of local and strategic roads, can be implemented through existing contracts and without any planning delays, providing an instant boost to economic growth.”
Mr Wates highlighted delays to significant pipeline projects in education and defence which “need to be tackled”, and also warned that public scepticism on PFI must be addressed, “particularly if new streams of investment are to be secured”.
He said that the £500bn construction investment estimated by the prime minister “will require support from institutions, yet many are deterred by the returns and risk profile associated with infrastructure delivery”.
“The clear task now is to ensure projects move smoothly through the pipeline to reality,” he continued.
“We hope that the autumn statement will provide an indication of the likely levels of capital spend by government departments.”
Mr Wates’ comments followed an open letter sent by UKCG last month to new government ministers, emphasising the ability of the construction industry to boost the economy.