As the government eases the lockdown provisions around the country, the Prime Minister today made a speech in Dudley, the historical heart of the industrial revolution, setting out his £5 billion economic recovery plan for the country. This is the government's plan to build our way out of the recession caused by the pandemic, and has been compared to the New Deal proposed during the Great Depression by US President Franklin D Roosevelt.
In summary, the PM said that the government intends to use the crisis to tackle some of the country's unresolved challenges, and these will include:-
- upgrading existing and building new hospitals;
- repairing existing and building new school and college buildings;
- upgrading roads and repairing bridges;
- upgrading and renewing some 29 town centres, to "put an arm around neglected parts of the country";
- shaking up the planning laws to allow easier commercial to residential usage changes on the high street; and
- Increasing apprenticeship and training schemes.
The message was there would be a levelling up to the investment in infrastructure projects in areas like the midlands. The expectation is that this will be followed up by more announcements on schemes to reinvigorate the economy, and a follow up by the Chancellor.
This "turbo-charged optimis" will be dampened by some challenges.
COVID-19 is very much still around, and all countries are mindful of this. The PM compared this to a shark circling the boat; a reality brought home by the city of Leicester being kept under extended lockdown restrictions due to a spike in reported infections. The furlough scheme will come to an end, and there is a level of uncertainty as to whether there will be further delayed redundancies. The ongoing infections may present a real problem by placing restrictions on what work can be done, and the ability to deliver efficiently. The PM commented that as a country we have to deliver services more efficiently and more cost-effectively to compete.
However, this announcement and the ongoing commitment to build our way out of this recession will be a shot in the arm to the construction industry, albeit that some of the schemes will invariably have a certain gestation period before they actually happen. Nevertheless, the war cry that we cannot become prisoners of the COVID-19 crisis is a sentiment the business world will share.
Originally published 01 July, 2020
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