Mark Farrar said: “Inevitably, there will be winners and losers in construction as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review, but the devil is in the detail and we’ll be working with Ministers to drill down so that we can understand what this really means for businesses in our sector who continue to fight for survival during these tough times.”
Echoing warnings from the Federation of Master Builders, Farrar added: “Obviously any Government seeking to balance the books has to look at the procurement of major public programmes but cutting social housing to 150,000 over a four year period is likely to have a significant impact on recession hit home-builders and, coupled with the scaling back of other public funded programmes, may lead to further job losses in construction and fewer opportunities for new entrants wanting to join the industry as apprentices or graduates.
The industry currently supports some 8% of GDP but there has been a fall in employment in the workforce of some 375,000 workers from 2008 to 2010 as a result of the downturn. Public sector investment in construction plays a critical part in protecting employment and skills in the sector. Experience of past recessions indicates that those leaving the industry now will be highly skilled workers who will choose not to return to the sector when the recovery comes.
But it wasn’t all bad news. The Chancellor of the Exchequer reaffirmed the Coalition’s commitment to invest in the green economy – providing £1bn funding for a UK-Wide Green Investment Bank, which could have the potential to stimulate new opportunities for SMEs.
Coming the day after CITB-ConstructionSkills launched its SME focused ‘Cut the Carbon’ campaign, in partnership with the Federation of Master Builders and National Specialist Contractors Council. –Mark Farrar commented: “The Green Investment Bank is good news for the industry, SMEs would stand to benefit from lucrative contracts if the Bank succeeds in generating private sector finance to fund energy efficient housing contracts. However, we do need more informationto fully understand the implications of the Green Deal. To meet Government’s exacting carbon reduction targets and bring the greatest economic benefit to the industry it is vital that SMEs are ready and equipped with the most up to date knowledge and skills across their workforce to retrofit houses with the latest energy-efficiency technologies. The carbon-clock is ticking”
Also announced today were Government plans to fund 75,000 adult apprenticeships to the tune of £250 million. Farrar said, “In our pre-election manifesto, we actively encouraged the Government to provide more adult apprenticeship places. This has been a theme of more recent discussions with Ministers and Chief Advisors and so we’re delighted to see this reflected in plans today. This will help industry meet its recruitment challenge, and train the next generation of skilled workers. It’s an important step in the right direction.”
Whilst there were no surprises in the Comprehensive Spending Review, CITB-ConstructionSkills shares industry concerns that more detail is needed before industry can assess the true impact of the proposals and has committed to share these views with Government when Executives meet with Ministers later this month.