Autumn Budget 2021: preparing the UK for a post-COVID economy

The Government has delivered its Autumn Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review to the House of Commons, preparing the UK for a post-COVID economy.

David Whysall, Managing Director UK Infrastructure and Martin Sudweeks, Managing Director of Cost Management, comment on what today’s announcement means for infrastructure and real estate, and how construction needs to respond.

Joining up infrastructure delivery

On the ‘local transport revolution’, David Whysall, said:

The Chancellor’s commitment to deliver transport schemes for the mayoral city regions is very welcome and another demonstration of how the Government is making investments outside the south east.

However, this Autumn Budget was more an exercise in announcing where local transport money would be spent because much of this funding has been previously announced with £1.5 billion representing new money for rail, tram and bus projects outside of London.

Highlighting the need for alignment on national and local strategies, David commented: “The levelling up agenda undoubtedly requires local intracity schemes, but they should not be delivered in isolation. A high performing, resilient multi-hub economy needs more joined up Government and cross-industry spatial planning to align highways, rail, energy and residential development.

National and regional strategies must align social and economic infrastructure planning if we are to truly improve prospects for the poorest communities.

“Delivering an infrastructure revolution also requires our industry to be on top of its game,” David added: “We have taken some significant strides to share learning and innovation through the IPA Project Routemap, the Construction Playbook and the Value Toolkit, but we have to be world class on every project to address regional disparities and forge a path to net zero. Get it right and the UK, and its construction industry, will have everything to shout about.”

Boosting commercial and industrial real estate

Focussing on the commitment to Chancellor’s to life sciences and electric vehicles (EVs), Martin Sudweeks said: “The Chancellor’s pledge to launch a £1.4 billion Global Britain Investment Fund to attract more overseas investment into sectors such as life sciences, offshore wind and EV production will be a welcome boost for commercial and industrial real estate.

“The UK is struggling to attract Gigafactory occupiers against the backdrop of fierce competition across Europe. However, it remains to be seen whether the money allocated as part of the fund will be enough to compete and secure investment in EV vehicle production.”

Martin cautioned that:

On the journey to net zero the UK cannot afford to drag its heels on investment in this space.

With business rates reform overlooked by the Chancellor, Martin added that: “While there are significant business rates cuts for one year in some sectors and relief for green investments, this was not the shake-up of business rates promised in the Conservative Party Manifesto.

More fundamental changes to the existing system are required to give businesses the comfort to make the long-term investment decisions in their operations, helping to breathe new life into high streets and their communities.

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Ben Steele
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