Any hope from the Chancellor's Autumn Statement?

Published:  10 December, 2012

Robert Burgon asks whether the Chancellor's 2012 Autumn Statement contained hope for the construction industry.

Whether this is anything to do with global warming or simply that the statement was made late is debatable. What is clear, however, is that we all waited for answers to certain questions. How was the economy doing? How was it predicted to do? What aspects of taxation would he change? What about duty on fuel?

The biggest question in the minds of people involved in construction was how much? Since it is widely believed that spending on construction can help countries out of recession, this figure (if any) could be key to the future of many UK construction companies.

On the face of it, the answer to the question seems quite large. The industry is to receive £5 billion over the next two years - this is a big number. While some of the money is aimed at difficult to comprehend projects (including the extension of the London Underground to a derelict power station on the south bank of the Thames), it does seem that this commitment is a step in the right direction.

The Scottish government was quick to react to its allocation of additional funding by announcing that it had a range of "shovel ready" projects which could start soon. The speed at which any of this work proceeds is indeed important given that it seems a very long time since there has been any significant public expenditure on construction. Whether it is "too little, too late", as at least one politician has claimed, remains to be seen.

What plumbing and heating firms must hope for is that some of the impact of this expenditure will find its way to projects which need the skills that our industry can provide. We must also hope that the act of kick-starting construction projects might be enough to restore confidence to individual householders, many of whom have been delaying doing any home improvement work because of the general economic uncertainty.

Although we had snow and ice rather than autumn leaves when this year's statement was made, let us all hope that it will result in the much needed boost of good cheer which our industry needs on the brink of 2013.

Christmas greetings and best wishes for the New Year to all HVP readers!

 

Robert Burgon is SNIPEF chief executive and pensions manager for Plumbing Pensions.