Election 2017 comment from Gleeds Chairman, Richard Steer
This election result has provided an unwelcome surprise bringing instability and uncertainty. By whatever method they chose to govern, the new government needs to appreciate that the UK construction industry is a high priority. It is bigger than aerospace and the automotive industry combined and this reality needs to be recognised.
Brexit negotiations will start within weeks and the rights and freedom of movement, for skilled and professionally qualified workers who contribute to the maintenance and construction of the built environment, should be guaranteed before we lose even larger numbers to other countries. It’s quite simple – we still need people to build. We have more and more technology impacting our sector but it is primarily about men and women working to create the built environment and we are facing a shortage of skilled workers.
It may be that to negotiate exit from the EU, without a majority, the new administration will need to back away from the hard inflexible approach to Brexit it paraded before the election. This I would welcome. In the face of potentially rising costs now even greater as our currency is buffeted by fears of a neutered minority government in the markets, we need stability to give investors a comfort factor. One way to achieve this would be to give an immediate commitment to the funding of infrastructure projects like housing, schools, prisons and hospitals which will give the sector a clear pipeline and allow it to train and recruit to attract more quality workers. Surely this would be accepted by all parties and would be an easy win for a government who may be short on finding consensus in a new parliament. The country is at a crossroads. The election was called for reasons of political expediency which somewhat backfired. Whilst we have been distracted, the EU have established a clear, unified and purposeful path forward. We are already running to catch up. I am not sure that any new government would be wise making the mistake of taking those at home who create the structures in which we live, work and invest, for granted and embark on an ill-conceived negotiation which we will all live to regret.
Now is a time for vision and statesmanship. Petty political squabbling should be consigned to the past. We need stability and a clear direction of travel that allows us the freedom to prosper. As an industry we are still the envy of most countries in the world; the new government must now work with others to ensure this is maintained.
Richard Steer, Chairman of Gleeds Worldwide.