A clear focus on the green economy and infrastructure is vital to the UK’s economic and social recovery, and should be essential elements of the upcoming Spring Budget on 15 March.
That’s according to the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), who have written to chancellor Jeremy Hunt and his treasury team ahead of the keenly-anticipated spring statement.
ACE champions infrastructure and the built environment. Its member firms employ over 60,000 people in the UK and over 250,000 worldwide, contributing more than £15 billion to the UK economy and over £570 billion globally.
Together, they also play a pivotal role in delivering ambitious plans to achieve net zero by 2050.
ACE chief executive Stephen Marcos Jones was pleased to see a focus on innovation and infrastructure in the Autumn Statement delivered on 17 November last year, and also welcomed the creation of a dedicated Department for Energy Security and Net Zero as part of a mini-government reorganisation earlier this month.
He now hopes the chancellor will press ahead and build on that momentum with the Spring Budget.
Stephen Marcos Jones said: “A clear focus on the green economy and infrastructure is vital to the UK’s economic and social recovery, and the opportunity ACE members have to deliver net zero solutions is immense.
“Whether that’s in designing the infrastructure for the transition to green energy, retrofitting old and existing housing stock, or embedding sustainability into new and existing communities.
“The construction and infrastructure sector has a vital role to play if net zero is to be successfully achieved on behalf of both this and future generations across the globe.
“With that in mind, we would like to see the government make positive budgetary decisions in two areas. First, how we turn ambitions on the green economy and green growth into reality and, second, how we deliver on the infrastructure pipeline, despite tough economic times.”
The ACE budget submission includes a set of constructive proposals for transport, procurement, communities and levelling-up, net zero, innovation and future skills and training.
Transport: Delivering on commitments around HS2 and the Integrated Rail Plan, to realise the economic and social benefits of these projects.
Procurement: Calls for early publication of the infrastructure pipeline. This would give companies and industry opportunities to plan, particularly on issues around recruitment and retention, as well as individual company budgets.
Communities and levelling-up: Looking again at the competitive nature of levelling up funding, but also ensuring that existing successful bids are focused on driving up overall skill levels and promoting net zero projects in areas identified as needing to be ‘levelled up’. Also encourage the use of co-investment between public and private sector to grow investment in place-based projects.
Climate Change and Innovation: Provide a clear and stable policy platform, alongside funding for innovation which gives companies and industry the confidence it needs to innovate, and to prioritise resilience and climate mitigation based-solutions. In particular, a roadmap for developing and deploying R&D and relevant technologies.
Future skills and training: Allocating funding to develop a Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan, aimed at recognising the importance of skills and training to support the green agenda.
Stephen Marcos Jones said: “The industry has seen positive signals that the government takes both the challenges and, even more importantly, the opportunities of net zero seriously.
“The Built Environment Sector is constantly innovating and finding creative workable solutions to the main challenges of our time, and is ready, willing and able to meet the challenges and opportunities of net zero absolutely head on.
“It’s absolutely realistic to expect that the Spring Budget will go some way to deliver a safe, innovative, resilient, and globally competitive UK built environment sector, driving economic growth by delivering well-connected, socially valuable, and environmentally sustainable places.”