MPs must reverse proposed reduction in Northern Ireland’s capital expenditure

Ahead of tomorrow’s Budget Bill debate in the House of Commons, the Construction Employers Federation is calling on all MPs, especially those from and with an interest in Northern Ireland, to reflect on the draft Budget allocations and reverse the proposed £130m cut in next year’s capital expenditure.

Commenting, John Armstrong, Managing Director of the CEF, said:

“As the industry were preparing to hear government spending plans on the basis of there being £1.52bn of capital expenditure available in 2019/20, last week’s announcement has come as an extremely unwelcome development.

“While we as an industry do not doubt the pressures that are currently being felt across our public services, we similarly find it completely unacceptable that it is the construction industry which is expected to take a large element of these pressures.

“In recent weeks, via our State of Trade survey and our comments on the underfunding of much needed Wastewater Treatment Works, we have made it abundantly clear that not only are north of a third of local contractors on the cusp of making redundancies due to the ongoing political impasse and the inability to get public works out to the market, but also that without heavily investing in our wastewater and sewerage services we risk putting a halt to all forms of development right across Northern Ireland, not just housebuilding.

“These pressures call for an increase in capital expenditure above and beyond what the Chancellor announced in October – not the reprofiling of £130m of it.

“To put the £130m in context, it could:

Deliver four further education colleges similar to that currently being built in Armagh or
Complete the entirety of the Strule Shared Education Campus or
Fund over half of the remaining construction works on the A6 Dungiven-Drumahoe scheme or
Fund the design and complete construction of the York Street Interchange

“Fundamentally, the £130m would also secure thousands of existing jobs and enable contractors to grow their workforces further.

“Instead, as a result of this proposed allocation, we are not only risking the speedy progress of the Executive Flagship schemes that have yet to commence but also the smaller scale education, health and housing works which are the lifeblood of the local construction industry and their employees.

“Of course, the £1.39bn that has been allocated to Northern Ireland’s capital expenditure in 2019/20 can and will do a lot of great work in enhancing our public infrastructure. However, given the reality of the challenge that we are faced with with respect to our wastewater and sewerage network alone, this reprofiling is short-sighted at best.

“We would therefore urge MPs to give consideration to these issues ahead of the debate tomorrow in the Commons and reverse this short-sighted decision.”