‘Paying more tax is counter-intuitive for our sector’

Figures from across the construction and built environment sector have given their verdict on Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget, announced yesterday, a summary of which can be found here.

Patricia Moore, UK managing director, Turner and Townsend

"Today we saw further signs of the kind of creativity that we need to build back better. The commissioning of the new UK Infrastructure Bank in Leeds will grab attention from investors, and pits the country ahead of many nations mulling similar measures to help stimulate interest.

"For construction, the phrase that featured far less than may have been expected today was net zero. From past announcements and commitments, we know that this is the major challenge for our sector.

"Our industry is in the unique position of being one of the UK’s biggest contributors to carbon emissions, while also being the engine for growth and common thread across all these announcements. We bear the responsibility both to deliver the infrastructure and change that helps shape a modern, post-pandemic economy, while doing it in a way that effectively measures, evaluates and reduces our carbon impact."

Peter Hogg, UK cities director at Arcadis

"We all know the old saying: ‘it is the job of the Chancellor to take the punchbowl away when the party is getting out of hand.’ It is a measure of the extraordinary times in which we live that today the chancellor brought out yet another tray of economic tequila slammers to keep the party going.

"This was a budget with an absolute focus on heading-off a post-covid recession and kick-starting growth. Little was left to chance. Extension of measures that support businesses and individuals, like the Job Retention Scheme and Business Rate Relief, will give important breathing space and engender the confidence that is so important to recovery. Extending the stamp duty holiday and introducing the deposit guarantee scheme will keep the housing market moving, supporting both transactions in existing stock and new build.

"Re-start grants for businesses will also be welcome and, whilst the raise in corporation tax is a significant reversal on 10-years of Tory policy, many will be pleased to see recognition of small businesses with their reduced corporation tax of 19%. The super-deduction for businesses that are investing is also a smart move, incentivising innovation and commitment to growth.

"The Chancellor was clearly prepared to be bold and long-sighted in his planning to get the party started; he made clear that most measures would last longer and taper out to avoid economic cliff edges and hard landings. He did remind us, however, that the bar bill is racking up. If these measures do not deliver strong growth, the danger is that – like many Tequila nights – the UK wakes up with a bad hangover and a large bar bill."

Alan Jones, RIBA President

"While the Chancellor’s focus is understandably on mitigating the impact of the pandemic, the measures announced today do little to reassure me of the government’s commitment to reach net zero or drive a green economic recovery.

"Some of today’s announcements – such as the UK Infrastructure Bank and green gilts – could help our economy grow back more sustainably, but that depends entirely on future investment decisions. The money pledged must be used to create green jobs and fund energy efficiency programmes such as a National Retrofit Strategy.

"Taken alongside the personal allowance freeze, the corporation tax rise will have a significant impact on RIBA members and hints at wider tax changes to come. It’s therefore vital that the government looks at how the tax system could also help tackle the climate emergency. By reviewing reforming mechanisms to incentivise sustainability the government could successfully drive the green economic recovery that is desperately needed."

Jordan Rosenhaus, chief executive at modular housebuilder TopHat

"I welcome Rishi Sunak’s green-tinged Budget, but it was disappointing to see that policymakers are still failing to address the problems caused by consumers’ unwillingness to change old habits – especially in relation to how they live in their homes.

"Changing decades-old habits is not going to be easy, but it is vital. The Committee on Climate Change estimates that costs to green the UK’s housing stock will reach £11.7bn of average annual investment over the next 30 years. However, the same organisation also calculates that from mid-2040 savings in operating spending – e.g. how much cheaper it will eventually be to run a home’s heating system using air source heat pump instead of a gas boiler – will start to exceed the annual investment.

"For a step change to happen now it will require a cocktail of government grants and incentives – not like the Green Homes Grant, which has crashed and burned, but more like basing a home’s council tax bill on its energy performance. Lower Stamp Duty for properties with higher Energy Performance Certificate ratings is also an example of how to encourage developers to improve the energy performance of their new homes. This would echo the tax incentives available to the motor industry and electric cars.”

Graham Harle, chief executive officer, Gleeds Worldwide

"The Budget means that business will be paying more tax. While understandable, it is counter-intuitive for our sector since, for every for £1 spent on construction, £3 is created in the wider economy.

"I had also hoped we’d see a Budget which helped the UK reach its net zero targets, prioritising a fully funded retrofitting programme and enhanced investment in building safety remediation works, all of which creates jobs — a stated priority for the Chancellor.

"However, confirmation of the national infra bank was good news and I do welcome increased incentive payments for apprenticeships, the extension of the stamp duty holiday and the super-deduction on specific capital items against tax was imaginative. It was a highly politicised budget with an eye on the next election as much as a post covid recovery plan."

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