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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Construction crucial to economic recovery

SPEAKING to an audience of more than 450 senior industry leaders and government officials at the Construction Products Association’s 10th Annual Lunch, Bill Bolsover, the newly elected chairman of the Association, emphasized that despite the current difficulties faced by the construction industry, it has a crucial part to play in the country’s economic recovery.

Following the sharpest fall in construction output in 35 years, Mr Bolsover said that although companies could simply downsize their businesses and hope government spending cuts would not be as bad as feared, this was not the attitude that, over many generations, had led the construction industry to create some of the UK’s most impressive buildings and most valuable infrastructure.

‘Many of the things we marvel at today were conceived in a time of recession, when construction was seen as the one industry that could stimulate the economy, create employment and provide a valuable legacy for future generations,’ he said.

Mr Bolsover told his audience that the justification for that investment was just as compelling today in order to:

  • Ensure the economic recovery creates a more balanced economy with less dependence on financial services and a larger role for manufacturing and construction.
  • Deliver the large-scale investment needed in energy supply and distribution to ensure the lights do not go out.
  • Address the problems of a transport infrastructure that is creaking, even in recession, and which needs a long-term investment programme to bring it into line with other major economies with which UK businesses compete.
  • Increase the level of house building beyond not just what has been provided in the last two years, but in the last two decades, so as to accommodate the forecast increase of more than 4 million in the population of the UK between 2008 and 2018.

Mr Bolsover said he was confident that the next 10 years would bring continuing opportunities from the £16 billion Crossrail project; benefits from delivering the most significant programme for the supply and distribution of energy that the country has experienced since the arrival of North Sea Gas; new roles for many companies in developing and delivering a state-of-the-art High-Speed Rail Network; and engagement in a programme to refurbish 26 million existing homes and 2 million other buildings, to ensure that 2050 carbon commitments are met – a programme that it is estimated to involve spending on construction of around £10 billion per annum for 40 years.

Outlining his own manifesto as chairman of the Construction Products Association, Mr Bolsover said he wanted to: continue to motivate the industry to go out and sell what it has to offer; provide public and private sector clients with solutions to the challenges and opportunities they face; and deliver the 10–30% cost savings that are achievable through integration, innovation, and modernization.

‘We must raise the product manufacturers and suppliers higher up the ladder of influence in the construction industry,’ he concluded. ‘Construction does not exist without the materials and products that come together to make the projects that designers create, and the contractors and specialist put together. And the importance of the products within this partnership has become even more important with the drive towards a low-carbon economy.’

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