BCIS chief economist, Dr David Crosthwaite, said: “In light of the OBR’s central forecast being downgraded, the Autumn Statement was really quite underwhelming for the construction industry, which has been crying out for some clarity, commitment and consistency in policies.
“Crucially, the already delayed National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline is still nowhere to be seen, with the government saying it will publish a National Infrastructure Strategy next year.
“Investment in infrastructure, and removing barriers to private sector investment, is hugely important to driving economic growth. With the Autumn Statement, construction firms operating in an uncertain market have simply had that uncertainty prolonged yet again.
“We welcome full expensing of plant and machinery becoming permanent, for those firms who qualify. Having the ability to plan capital investment more effectively will be a huge benefit for firms looking to invest now and in the future, and maybe even a lifeline for some.
“For house builders, the promise of more streamlined planning processes and investment in new schemes may be welcomed, but we can’t forget that the significant slowdown in the housing market has been primarily caused by high interest rates creating a lack of demand. The housing sector would benefit more from tangible growth in the economy, which could in part have been boosted now by transparency around and commitment to infrastructure plans.
“Other measures, which will be welcomed by the industry, include a slice of a £50 million investment pot for engineering apprenticeships, but this doesn’t address a much wider skills gap we have across construction. The abolition of class 2 NI contributions for the self-employed, a growing demographic in our industry, is a saving of just £3.45 a week, and so a drop in the ocean considering the considerable costs construction trades have faced and continue to face.
“As BCIS recently launched the Built Environment Carbon Database, to unite the industry in making the measurement and reporting of whole life carbon assessments consistent, and as we approach COP28 next week, it’s hugely disappointing that the government hasn’t addressed the built environment and other sectors’ significant contribution to carbon emissions. Ambitions to reach net zero continue to be hampered by a lack of mandate for reporting from government level.”