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11 MAR 2020

ACE BUDGET REACTION: "GREAT NEWS FOR OUR MEMBERS, WIDER INDUSTRY AND SOCIETY"

Hannah Vickers on what the Budget means for our sector

Responding to today’s Budget, Hannah Vickers chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) which represents the companies large and small who design, deliver and operate our national infrastructure, said:

“With infrastructure investment now totaling more than £600 billion over the next five years, or around 3% of GDP, the headline takeaway figures are great news for society, our members and wider industry. The numbers exceed ACE’s manifesto and the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendations. There is no doubt that this is an historically huge commitment to investment in the future of our country and recognition of infrastructure’s vital role in driving long-term economic growth.

“In response to this, our members stand ready to work in partnership with the Government to deliver on this commitment through our pledge of £75m to scale up and invest in our capability through our Future of Consultancy programme.”

“However, the recent legal decision on Heathrow’s expansion is a timely reminder that delivery is about outcomes as much as investment. We need a clear policy direction on what this will deliver for society and the environment and hope to see more details in the upcoming National Infrastructure Strategy on how infrastructure investment will meet society’s net zero ambitions. The two simply cannot be mutually exclusive and we hold the engineering and technical expertise to unlock this challenge.”

On Coronavirus, Ms Vickers added: “All business, but especially SMEs, will be delighted to see a suite of temporary, timely and targeted responses to deal with the disruptive economic impact of Coronavirus through the tax and lending policies set out. The Chancellor’s promise that the Government would be flexible and ready to do more if required will also be welcomed by everyone.”

On devolution, Ms Vickers said: “With more funding allocated to devolved governments, announcements of a new metro-region in West Yorkshire, and more than £4.2 billion allocated to regional transport bodies to devolve both funding and decision making closer to local communities, this Government has gone a long way to matching rhetoric on “levelling up” the country with tangible action. Our members will look forward to supporting city leaders in delivering.”

On transport, Ms Vickers said: “With over 4,000 miles of strategic road and motorway schemes worth £27 billion announced, the Budget has exceeded the expectations of our own manifesto. In order to help the road network on the road to a greener future, the £500m announcement of a rapid electric vehicle charging network is also welcome. We hope that the anticipated National Infrastructure Strategy later in the year strategically links these announcements to others in the energy and housing sectors.”

On housing, Ms Vickers added: “We look forward to seeing more detail on tomorrow’s announcement by the Housing Minister on reforms to planning, however extending the affordable homes programme to £12.2 billion is welcome. The Government has done the right thing in announcing a fund to remove flammable cladding from buildings.”

On flooding risk management, Ms Vickers added: “The heavily trailed £5.2 billion for flooding, with a separate fund to help those who have been immediately affected, is welcome. We hope that the National Infrastructure Strategy will provide further definitions of the standard of protection this investment offers to the country. This is key to providing a sustainable and reassuring long term position for those at risk of flooding and the insurance industry who continue to support them.’’

On research, skills, innovation and productivity, Ms Vickers said: “We are delighted to see positive news on R&D, notably increasing investment to £22bn a year and the announcement of a new ‘blue skies’ research agency. As a result, we look forward to continuing discussions with Government on our proposals for the next phase of our Future of Consultancy campaign, the Consultancy Sector Futures Institute. This will turn cutting-edge research into applicable innovation, helping our industry and clients to prosper in a rapidly changing world.”

James Ketchell

James Ketchell

Head of Communications

James is in charge of communications at ACE, and works strategically across the group.

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