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Industrial Strategy: Reaction

Words: Laura Edgar
Construction / iStock_000004570153

The government has launched a white paper to address productivity in Britain, with industry professionals broadly welcoming proposals for transforming the construction sector and promoting clean growth.

Disappointment housing not a challenge


Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, said: “We are pleased to see some understanding of the need for mission-oriented objectives, such as making a transition to a low-carbon economy, which we called for during the strategy’s consultation and in our election asks. However, we are disappointed the government has missed this opportunity to include building one million new homes as a Challenge - which is a rallying cry for all sectors and places.”

Bold action need for low-carbon economy


Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Alasdair Cameron said it is right that clean growth is at the centre of the Industrial Strategy.

However, he said “bold action” is needed if the UK is to reap the benefits of building a low-carbon economy, and tackle both climate change and air pollution.

“Unfortunately government efforts to end the nation’s reliance on climate-wrecking fossil fuels are constantly undermined by its championing of fracking and financial assistance to the fossil fuel industry - as well as blocking cheap and efficient onshore wind and solar schemes.

“Ministers must also do more to ensure that people and communities – as well as big businesses – benefit from developing the nation’s huge renewable power potential.”

Strategy may fall short for counties


Philip Atkins, vice-chairman of the County Councils Network and leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: “An increased focus on place in the industrial strategy should be strongly welcomed, as is the government’s recognition that to increase national prosperity, all four corners of the country – counties as well as cities – must be part of the equation.”

But, Atkins said, while the direction of travel is “promising”, the strategy could represent a missed opportunity and its aims “may fall short in counties because of an over-emphasis on cities”.

“Counties ought to be in the driving seat to lead local industrial strategies, not just local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), whilst investment appears to be city focused.”

He said county authorities are concerned that LEPs are not always the most effective bodies to “dynamically lead local industrial strategies”.

“Counties contain the size to do business nationally and the intimate knowledge of their economies to grow communities locally, while offering the democratic transparency that LEPs currently cannot.”

Construction investment welcome


Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast consultancy and author of the government-commissioned review in the construction industry, welcomed more strategic investment for modernising construction technologies and associated skills and training programmes.

“When combined with the recent Autumn Budget announcement regarding the government moving towards a presumption of using modern methods of construction for many of its programmes, this represents the single biggest and coordinated set of measures attacking construction industry modernisation since the publication of the Farmer Review last year.

“The strategy has given due support to offsite manufacturing through the Transforming Infrastructure Performance programme, with the long-term aim of tackling the stagnating levels of productivity in the construction sector and speeding up the delivery of key projects in order to bolster economic growth. This will see a wholesale move towards ‘delivery platform’ thinking which can create a demand led transformation in large parts of our industry.”

Strong emphasis on collaboration


Tom Carpen, infrastructure and energy associate at Barton Willmore, said: “What is striking here is that rather than talking purely about the big picture economy, there’s a strong emphasis on collaboration and ‘people and places’ leading the way regionally. We can see that through targeted infrastructure investments of £31 billion and funding for devolved powers through the new Transforming Cities fund.

“What the strategy is doing is not just building on the pledges made in the Autumn Budget, but more importantly, echoing the recommendations that the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) set out in its report in October. It’s important that there’s a healthy relationship between the government and the NIC and that there is an ability to shape policy debate and to get people involved. It’s through this approach that we’ll really see regional economies reap the benefits that infrastructure can bring.”

Carpen added that it will be interesting to see whether a commitment to clean growth has a “tangible impact” on government investment decisions for technologies such as tidal power in the coming months and years.

“Disappointing” that there is no mention of onshore wind


Hugh McNeal, RenewableUK’s chief executive,  said: “The government is rightly putting clean growth at the heart of our nation’s industrial strategy. Renewables are set to become the backbone of our modern energy system and the plummeting cost of wind power means onshore and offshore wind can help improve the competitiveness of UK industry. So it’s disappointing that the strategy doesn’t set out how we can use onshore wind, the cheapest new generation source, to power industrial growth.

“Already, we are exporting our skills and knowledge worldwide, winning multi-million-pound contracts in wind and marine energy, including innovative floating offshore wind projects. If this Industrial Strategy fully supports these world-leading sectors, it can drive growth across all parts of the UK and create tens of thousands of high-value jobs.”