New Construction Minister Announced
Kwasi Karteng was appointed the new construction minister after Nadhim Zahawi who has become minister for vaccine deployment. Karteng, whose parents are Ghanaian, was born in Waltham Forest, has been a Conservative Surrey MP since 2010. According to the gov.uk his hobbies include history, music, and languages. He is a published author of the books Ghosts of Empire: Britain’s Legacies in the Modern World, After the Coalition, Gridlock Nation, Britannia Unchained: Global Lessons for Growth and Prosperity, War and Gold: A Five-Hundred-Year History of Empires, Adventures and Debt and Thatcher’s Trial: Six Months That Defined a Leader.
Government announces ‘levelling up’ development spending
Rishi Sunak published the National Infrastructure Strategy on 25 November that appears to plan to shift spending away from London. £4.2 billion was pledged for ‘intra-city transport settlements’ but it does include a commitment to complete Crossrail. Dubbed the ‘Levelling up Fund’, a ‘new UK infrastructure bank’ will be based in North of England along with a commitment to relocate 22,000 government workers away from London & the South-East.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan emphasised that spending away from London disadvantages UK as London has a recognised global position. The plan has attracted criticism because it is administered through competitive bidding and the neediest infrastructure projects may not have time to get their bids in on time.
Sunak announced that a new home building fund would ‘unlock up to 860,000 homes’ over the next four years with £4.8 billion to be used as capital grant funding to boost development.
Balfour Beatty to cut emissions on construction sites by 80%
The construction firm will deploy ‘EcoNet’ a system which automatically depowers tools and devices when not in use. The new technology developed by Balfour Beatty in conjunction with Invisible Systems and Sunbelt. First launched in May, EcoNet is now deployed in more than 21 sites across the UK achieving up to 83% reduction in carbon emissions (therefore electricity bills!) with plans to extend to a further 29 sites by Summer 2021. Kari Sprostranova, Balfour Beatty’s sustainability director, said: “With solutions such as EcoNet, we can improve our sustainability practices and the impact construction sites have on the environment.” EcoNet works with the site generator to manage and depower assets not in use. It is not clear whether EcoNet is available for resale.
As if COVID wasn’t enough! Brexit means shortage of materials
Contractors are concerned that supply exceeds demand for some imported material and that they will be left with a backlog of orders in a no-deal scenario after the transition period expires on 31 December.
Bathroom products have particularly high demand, and some firms are exploring different trade routes to try and ‘get around’ the problem, however delays with materials are a likelihood at this point. Some firms are stockpiling but this has effects on cash flow and is not necessarily that practical in all situations, requiring storage and massive investment. Confusion reigns regarding customs, log jams and port crossings and just how it will all work, causing panic across the sector. Some see COVID as a great ‘disaster training ground’ but for most contractors, it seems to be one thing after another!