For the UK construction and civil engineering sectors the latest budget appears to have provided some much needed investment in infrastructure and roads which looks like good news.
An additional £420 million to local authorities to tackle potholes and repair roads along with £240 million targeted investment in transport, £37 million of it for Northern Powerhouse Rail and £16.5 million for Tees Valley, will be welcomed by many.
Additional support for apprenticeships, cutting the contribution rate by half to 5% for SMEs is a positive response to significant lobbying from business.
The official abandonment of PFI is an opportunity for the Government and public sector as a whole to reset its infrastructure procurement mechanisms and move towards genuine long-term best value rather than the historical race to the bottom culture of ‘lowest price wins’.
But can we really trust anything the Chancellor said? While taking an upbeat tone in his budget speech to Parliament the Chancellor had no choice but to mention the elephant in the room that is Brexit. He said that a no deal Brexit would require a “different response”.
With that major caveat are businesses in any position to make plans based on the budget announcement? If the UK leaves without a deal then a new budget will be required next Spring, which pretty much makes everything the Chancellor has announced entirely moot until the Brexit process resolves itself.
Businesses should really treat the latest budget as a list of good intentions but hold off from making any major changes in their planning until an agreement (or not) on Brexit.
Sadly, it’s a situation that most must be used to after two years of continued uncertainty.