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James Parker looks at the reaction to the latest budget

Well if you thought Rishi’s rollback on pushing heat pumps and banning gas boilers a few weeks ago was underwhelming, you weren’t prepared for the lukewarm bath that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was going to run for you just last week!

They do say that immersion in cold water is very good for you, but I really don’t think that an Autumn Statement that barely scratches the surface of the construction sector’s challenges is good for anyone.

In a fairly blatant pre-Election series of pacifiers, Hunt announced some big tax cuts for firms and individuals, such as in national insurance and ‘full expensing’ to help businesses invest, which most people would find it hard to complain about.

However, where was the mention of the net zero standard, how they were investing directly in measures to achieve it, and perhaps even, god forbid, short-term investment in the construction sector’s urgent moves to try and prepare for the Future Homes Standard?

Our ambitions to reach net zero are hampered by a lack of a government mandate for reporting

James Parker James Parker Managing Editor of Housebuilder and Developer

Green growth accelerator

There was the ‘Green Industries Growth Accelerator,’ however, worth £960m, but this won’t come in until 2025, and is expected to support five distinct clean tech sectors, in particular power infrastructure.

Thinking this will be enough to fix our issues around green transformation is naive, wishful thinking.

Insulation and energy efficiency (retrofit or new build) were absent from the Statement, which is shameful, given the work needs to start now if we are to have any chance of hitting the targets, and homeowners will not be able to fund the improvements en masse.

They may be less ‘sexy,’ but such schemes are where the big wins could be.

If this was supposed to be a pre-Election sweetener Budget, assuming the British public aren’t interested in safeguarding their new and existing properties against fuel price volatility, climate change, and the proportion of their income they give to energy companies, is absolutely foolish.

Regardless of the industry standards we are about to confront, which in themselves will be unachievable without Government help, the people will get the chance to show the Government what they think of this laissez-faire approach.

Scathing about lack of clarity

The CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building) is an important body in our sector, but will the Government listen to the scathing words of director of policy and external affairs and research, Eddie Tuttle?

He rightly states there was a terrible lack of clarity in the Statement as to whether the £50m announcement for apprenticeships included the construction sector, or whether as ever, the biggest contributor to UK’s GDP isn’t regarded as ‘key’ yet again.

And the chief economist at the Building Cost Information Service (BICS) – although we know what the Government tends to think of ‘experts’, was even more critical.

The BICS’s Dr David Crosthwaite took direct aim at the lack of green policies, with the BCIS having recently launched its Built Environment Carbon Database, a major attempt to ‘unite the industry in making the measurement and reporting of whole-life carbon assessments consistent’ in the run up to this week’s COP28 in Dubai.

Hugely disappointing

Such endeavours are crucial, yet so far from where the Government is, that it’s almost hard to believe, given the size of the challenge.

Crosthwaite is right in saying that it’s “hugely disappointing that the Government hasn’t addressed the built environment and other sectors’ significant contribution to carbon emissions.”

And, in something of an understatement, that our ambitions to reach net zero “continue to be hampered by a lack of mandate for reporting at government level.”

Construction is the key to making the big shifts on carbon we need, now. It needs big intervention, of the sort that this Government seems petrified of even contemplating.

James Parker, Managing Editor of Housebuilder and Developer