UK: Our experts comment on the Autumn Budget 2017

Paul Howlett

Head of Communications and Marketing

Turner & Townsend's top UK experts discussed yesterday afternoon the major construction, infrastructure and developments topics raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who presented his Autumn Budget to Parliament on 22 November 2017.

Construction sector deal

Patricia Moore
Managing Director – UK Infrastructure at Turner & Townsend


“The Chancellor has trailed an announcement on a construction sector deal.  To meet the challenges facing our sector, it is now essential that his is brought forward as soon as possible through the emerging Industrial Strategy."


This would be a major vote of confidence for the sector and provide a significant catalyst for change.  Construction has struggled to reinvent itself and improve performance because of its fragmented supply chains, coupled with its highly cyclical nature and low margins.

“The sector deal would provide much-needed leadership to coordinate investment around major programmes, including the ambition to invest in infrastructure and residential development priorities outlined in today’s Budget.  It needs strong Government backing and financial support for the priorities set out by the Construction Leadership Council, including digital technology, increased use of manufacturing, and improving the whole-life performance of assets.  The whole sector then needs to work together to deliver meaningful change.”

Housing delivery

Bruce McAra
Managing Director – UK Real Estate at Turner & Townsend

“The Government continues to grapple with the need to unlock residential delivery, and it is good to see new thinking and energy being shown toward this.

Infrastructure support is essential.  The Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford rail link, combined with working with Oxfordshire Council to build 100,000 new homes, as well as with other Local Authorities, will open up much-needed sites."

The various measures outlined to support housebuilding are welcome, but inevitably come with strings attached.

"The major challenge for local authorities remains the availability of expertise to accurately assess their assets, identify the right opportunities and delivery models, and bring forward investment.

Even when we have the sites available we still need to consider our ability to build efficiently and cost effectively. Modern manufacturing methods will play an essential role, but real progress requires greater coordination across the sector supply chain to embed digital and offsite tools, moving beyond lone factories to true component-led design.

It is now critical that a construction sector deal is brought forward through the emerging industrial strategy to accelerate housing delivery.” 

Regional Investment

Bill McElroy
Managing Director – Advisory at Turner & Townsend

“After a long journey toward devolution, the Chancellor has recognised that elected mayors, combined authorities and city regions are itching to take ownership of investment in their economies. Today’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and the devolved power of the new elected Mayors through the 50% allocation of the £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund shows Westminster is hearing this call."

What is particularly pleasing is to see recognition through this Fund of the key role that transport infrastructure plays in turning economic vision into reality.

"Practical support such as replacing the Tyne & Wear Metro rolling stock is one example of what is needed to stimulate further economic activity.

We have been encouraged by the entrepreneurship shown by bodies including the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Barking & Dagenham Council in London. Given the right tools to invest and the infrastructure to open up opportunities, these and other authorities will find a way to deliver growth. 

Private sector partnerships will be critical to the success of this agenda, as while they have plenty of ambition, financial constraints mean that local authorities need third party capacity and expertise.”

Fiscal devolution and Crossrail 2

Bill McElroy
Managing Director – Advisory at Turner & Townsend

“The hinted commitment to Crossrail 2 combined with a pilot for 100% retention of business rates in London is unlikely to be a coincidence. Rates retention offers a major opportunity to generate investment in infrastructure to support the capital’s ongoing growth."

Such fiscal devolution measures are a welcome funding source for supporting new projects, but to seize these opportunities we must set up our mega projects in a different way – using new models, modern technology and improved data capabilities.

"This is essential if we are to turn the tide in a sector that has historically lagged behind in productivity and performance.”