How Labour can keep its manifesto promise to power up construction

Suzannah Nichol is chief executive of Build UK

Homes and infrastructure were at the heart of manifestos in the run-up to the election, and now all eyes are on Labour – which promised to ‘turbocharge’ housebuilding – to see if it delivers on its promises.

“By thinking differently, by the end of its first term Labour could be delivering on its ambitions”

The challenges are clear. Most young people cannot afford to buy their first home without financial support from someone other than a mortgage company, and growing families cannot afford to move.

Infrastructure budgets are consistently overspent and programmes delayed. The planning system is becoming more complex and more time-consuming, increasing pressure on ageing and insufficient infrastructure. The market is ‘stuck’ at every level.

If it was easy to build 300,000 houses a year and deliver the infrastructure the country needs, the previous administration would have done it. But by thinking differently, by the end of its first term Labour could be delivering on its ambitions.

Local plans, national strategy

Housing cannot be looked at in isolation. Local plans need to feed into a national strategy, with the right number of good-quality homes at affordable prices, built in conjunction with the required infrastructure, as set out by the National Infrastructure Commission. Support will be much more forthcoming if businesses have certainty of pipeline and people can see how local development will improve their communities.

The government and construction industry each have a key role in delivering this package of homes and infrastructure. We could deliver more, at pace, using modern technology and more efficient practices.

The industry must be ready to adapt systems so the whole supply chain can focus on delivering high-quality buildings and infrastructure. Change offers opportunity and now is the time to work together to take advantage of that opportunity.

A step-change will require both public and private sector investment. This can only be achieved if we have a long-term plan to give those holding the purse strings the confidence to invest.

Build UK worked with the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) before the election to publish an open letter to the new government, calling for a focus on the ‘Five Ps’:

  1. An agreed and funded PIPELINE of sustainable economic and social infrastructure, which is regularly reviewed and updated, providing certainty and continuity for the next 10 years.
  2. Suitable and sufficient PLACES TO LIVE delivered through improved planning, more suitable sites, and properly funded retrofit programmes.
  3. Effective and efficient PROCUREMENT of projects, including implementation of the Construction Playbook, appropriate allocation of risk and fair payment practices.
  4. Enhanced PERFORMANCE throughout the supply chain, with clear regulation and standards consistently applied to deliver safe buildings and high-quality infrastructure.
  5. Investment in the development and provision of competent PEOPLE supported from education into employment and throughout their careers.

Construction drives private investment, with new and improved homes and infrastructure increasing productivity in all other sectors – a virtuous upward cycle for individuals, communities, businesses and UK plc. By focussing on the Five Ps, this government can really power up construction and grow the UK economy.

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