budget 2017: what was in hammond's red box for construction?

Rarely are there Budgets these days that aren’t leaked to the press days before the chancellor takes to the dispatch box in the House of Commons.

This year was no different but Philip Hammond still had enough detail in his red box to spring a surprise or two - and the odd scripted joke - especially when it came to announcements relating to construction. 

Wednesday was an opportunity for Philip Hammond to give construction a shot in the arm after an up and down year in the sector.

House building roaring back.

Throughout the year construction has see-sawed between positive and negative growth and in the last quarter slipped into a technical recession.

However, one of the success stories has been house building and after years of falling behind and failing to meet demand, 216,000 new homes have been built this year. 

Emboldened by that figure as well as the continuation of Help to Buy, the chancellor fired the starting gun on plans to build 300,000 homes a year. 

This alone won’t solve the housing crisis in this country but is still a step in the right direction for a fragile construction sector as well as house buyers, particularly those making their first step onto the property ladder.

Planning to intervene.

One of the ways the chancellor plans to make this target a reality is by intervening in some planning application stuck in the pipeline. He’ll also take the controversial step of looking at building on green belt land. 

Like many UK industries, construction faces skills shortages, which combined with the added uncertainty around Brexit makes training and upskilling workers even more important. 

So it was pleasing to see the government earmark £64m for construction and digital training courses.  More than half of that will go towards teaching construction skills like bricklaying and plastering while £30m will fund digital courses. 

Another positive was the unveiling of the National Retraining Scheme. This historic partnership between the government, Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Rail upgrade.

One area we specialise in is rail and a number of projects ranging from the link between Oxford and Bedford, and Aylesbury and Milton Keynes were given the green light as was another transport link, the expressway road between Oxford and Cambridge.

Construction workers often clock up a lot of miles getting to site and the decision to freeze fuel duty for another year is a victory for a thirsty sector. 

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