Given the many promises on infrastructure spending made during the general election campaign, it's not unreasonable for the industry to expect a construction spending boom, says Andy Walker.
After months and months of political and economic uncertainty, a general election in the UK has delivered a Conservative government with a thumping majority. The new government has a mandate for not only “getting Brexit done” (which was repeated once or twice during the election campaign you may have noticed) but also for delivering on its many infrastructure promises.
During the election campaign, the chancellor Sajid Javid signalled his intention to spend an extra £20bn a year on capital projects such as roads, railways, schools and hospitals. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warned both parties that any future government might have trouble delivering projects on the scale planned, citing “shortages in the number of suitably skilled construction workers, a dearth of ‘shovel-ready’ projects and practical issues relating to delivery" as challenges that the new government will need to overcome.
Many Conservative candidates standing in northern seats highlighted the state of infrastructure and the need to upgrade and expand it. Ambitious plans to upgrade and expand light rail systems, build new roads, open new rail lines and build new train stations were all trotted out during the campaign. Now comes the difficult part - delivering them.
With their large majority and a big responsibility to deliver in many of the new northern seats they won, Boris Johnson's government will have to move fast to show voters that their trust in the Conservatives is not misplaced. It is perhaps no exageration to say that the construction sector should be facing a spending boom over the coming months. As Mark Robinson, CEO of public procurement specialists Scape Group, commented the day after the election: "For the first time in a decade, the ruling government party in the UK has a clear mandate to deliver".
Boris Johnson himself made all kinds of infrastructure promises during the election campaign and it is incumbent on construction leaders to hold the PM to account to ensure that his government delivers them and in a way that starts to rebalance the economy after years of uneven development in favour of the south at the north’s expense. Notwithstanding his large parliamentary majority, Johnson is going to need a fair wind and maybe a little luck to deliver on his pledges.
An eager industry awaits.
Andy Walker is the editor of Infrastructure Intelligence.