How will Budget 2021 impact the construction industry?

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Today (3 March) marks the arrival of Budget 2021, as chancellor Rishi Sunak vows to boost investment in infrastructure and inject £126m of new funding for 40,000 traineeships to build back better, greener and more efficiently post-Covid

The green-tinged Budget 2021 reveals a host of investments in infrastructure, traineeships and measures to tackle climate change.

Sunak announced plans to boost the country’s economic recovery post-Covid which includes, extending the furlough scheme until the end of September and the self-employment support scheme, and the creation of a UK infrastructure bank.

He also revealed steps would be taken to accelerate apprenticeships and meet the government’s net-zero commitments.

Budget 2021 commitments include:

  • A UK Infrastructure Bank, with £12bn of funds, is set to be established in Leeds to accelerate progress to net-zero and “level up” the UK.
  • The furlough scheme, which pays 80% of employees’ wages, will be extended until the end of September.
  • Doubling the amount of money incentivising businesses to hire apprentices.
  • Stamp Duty holiday is to be extended beyond the original 31 March deadline to the end of June.
  • The Help to Grow Digital scheme will give small businesses free online technology advice and 50% discounts on new productivity-enhancing software.
  • A new green savings bond will give people across the UK the opportunity to contribute to the collective effort to tackle climate change.
  • Over a £1bn announced for 45 new towns deals.
  • A new Help to Grow scheme will help thousands of SMEs get “world-class” management training.
  • Funding for new port infrastructure to build offshore wind farms.
  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will establish an MMC Taskforce, backed by £10m of seed funding.
  • Corporation tax is expected to increase to 25% in 2023.

Industry response

‘Government must deliver on its pledge to help Apprenticeship Levy payers’

CITB policy director, Steve Radley, said: “With the recovery from the crisis in sight, this welcome investment in infrastructure, traineeships and the new flexible apprenticeships, similar to our own shared apprenticeships scheme, will help support thousands of people into the construction industry just as employers are looking to hire them.

“Many employers reluctantly opted out of taking on an apprentice last autumn and extending the incentive to employ them is the right support at the right time.

“Extending traineeships will build stronger links with Further Education and build a bridge into apprenticeships and jobs for many young people.

“Government should build on this by quickly delivering on its pledge to help Apprenticeship Levy payers transfer their unspent funds to where they are needed, giving many smaller firms the firepower to drive the acceleration in apprenticeships to deliver the jobs-led growth the PM has promised.”

‘Very positive signs here for our industry’

Mark Reynolds, group chief executive of Mace, said: “It is clear that the chancellor recognises the huge importance of maintaining jobs and continuing to support investment in housing and infrastructure to deliver the growth we desperately need.

“The extension of the furlough scheme will be welcomed by many in the industry, as will additional support for employers taking on apprentices – and the package for the new National Infrastructure Bank makes clear the scale of the Treasury’s ambitions. Alongside investment in new Freeports, such as Teesport, and the Green Investment Bond, there are very positive signs here for our industry – but what matters now is how and when these ambitions will be realised at pace.

“If the National Infrastructure Bank is to succeed, funds need to move quickly; we must focus on ensuring that it is empowered to drive real change in our industry; promoting fairer procurement and innovative approaches to funding and delivery, prioritising ‘shovel-worthy’ schemes that create sustainable local jobs, reduce carbon emissions and create better outcomes for everyone.”

‘Giving the industry the tools to do what it does best’

Henry South, head of construction insurance at London Belgravia Brokers: “Today’s budget has shown that the government is committed to driving the UK’s recovery through growth rather than taxation.

“It is particularly welcoming to see the support being offered to the self-employed, SMEs and apprentice schemes.

“These announcements, along with the support shown to the residential property market and infrastructure projects, give the construction sector the tools to do what it does best and lead the charge in the economic recovery of the UK.”

‘The future generation now has the perfect platform to strive’

Sean Keyes, director at Sutcliffe, commented: “I expect taxes to stay static for now and although they will rise in the future it is light relief for us now that there won’t be any extra expenditure during a time when cash-flow is tight for thousands of businesses and employees.

“I am glad support has been provided for those businesses that have struggled the most especially in the hospitality sector and as the director of a construction firm we continue to welcome the government’s drive to push construction across the country – especially in healthcare and residential housing.

“Financial support to encourage apprentices is also fantastic and with the Kickstart Scheme and other programmes now well underway thanks to the extra £126m boost for traineeships, the future generation now has the perfect platform to strive.”

‘Ministers must do more to promote more innovative methods of construction’

Dave Sheridan, executive chairman at ilke Homes, said: “I welcome Rishi Sunak’s announcement that the government will be committing £126m of new funding for 40,000 traineeships as this will be vital in building back better, greener and more efficiently post-Covid.

“The UK economy’s transition to net-zero is going to be largely dependent on the availability of green skills. Therefore, the chancellor is right to see the Budget as an opportunity to increase funding for further education and expand apprenticeship opportunities, as the construction industry, currently one of the UKs biggest emitters of carbon, is lacking the required skills base to transition and innovate at a pace required to hit the Government’s 2050 target.

“In addition, the UK’s construction industry is faced with an acute shortage of labour – made worse by new and unfavourable immigration laws that prioritise high-skilled labour over low-skilled – so a step change in recruitment techniques is vital.

“Ministers and policymakers must do more to promote more innovative methods of construction, such as offsite manufacturing, where workers can enjoy working in dry, warm factory-controlled environments – not cold, damp building sites that have so typically defined conceptions of the construction industry.”

 

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