Industry gives positive welcome to Autumn Statement

Commenting after today’s Autumn Statement by the Chancellor, Construction Employers Federation Managing Director John Armstrong said...

“Since June’s vote to leave the European Union, UK-wide data on both GDP and the monthly Purchasing Managers Index has painted a very bleak picture for our industry. The additional £250m of capital expenditure, over the coming 4 years, announced by the Chancellor today is therefore a welcome boost for the local construction industry, building on the First Step Stimulus announced by the Finance Minister last month. Today’s announcement is also a positive reflection on the pressure that the Northern Ireland Executive, particularly the Finance Minister, has put on the UK Government in recent months to recognise the particular economic challenges that we face.

“All eyes will now turn to the publication of the Executive’s 2017-21 Budget, especially for capital expenditure, on 19 December. This must deal with the key challenges that industry has highlighted in recent months:

  • Reinforcing the need for greater accountability around the timely delivery of the Executive’s infrastructure pipeline;
  • The need for a multi-year budget approach for road maintenance;
  • A clear path towards the delivery of the York Street Interchange and Belfast Transport Hub projects including the full examination of alternative forms of finance to achieve this;
  • The widening of the budget envelope available to the Northern Ireland public sector to invest in capital expenditure, notably via local council borrowing and;
  • A timeframe for the taking forward of the Northern Ireland Investment Fund as alluded to by the Finance Minister in the Assembly yesterday.

These are the investment and jobs critical challenges that our Executive faces in the short to medium term and we look forward to engaging with Ministers and officials on these in the run up to 19 December.”

On the Apprenticeship Levy, Mr Armstrong said:

“As had been expected, the Government is pressing ahead with the introduction of the new Levy in April 2017 as planned. From the perspective of the construction industry this again reinforces the need for the immediate publication of a Northern Ireland consultation on the matter and a Northern Ireland-specific employer guide. In addition, there must be further reflection on the fact that the construction industry already pays a statutory levy to the Construction Industry Training Board and this will continue post-April. The new Levy will therefore impose a significant additional financial burden on many of Northern Ireland’s leading contractors when many continue to face significant sustainability challenges as a result of modest pipelines of work and incredibly tight margins specifically, but not solely, on public sector projects.”