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Political Uncertainty to Affect UK Infrastructure Construction Projects?

Political uncertainty was highlighted this month when UKIP won their second parliamentary seat in the House of Commons. Nigel Farage claims that this party listens to the voters and are more in touch with ordinary people. For some, the two successes of UKIP in electing MPs may go some way to explaining the recently reported political uncertainty reported to be felt by some UK business leaders as the established UK political parties struggle to win voter loyalty and the clear likelihood of gaining an overall majority at the UK general election to be held in 2015.

For the UK construction industry the political concern focuses around the likely future political and financial will to push ahead with the further development of UK infrastructure and energy projects.

There have been a number of major infrastructure projects completed, progressing, awarded or at an advanced stage of discussion recently including HS2, HS3, the Northern Line Extension, Crossrail and Crossrail 2 and the Thames super-sewer project.  In addition there are a number of massive road and water framework contracts to be awarded in 2015.

Confidence in the volume of civil engineering as well as building construction work available in the UK is needed to give current construction professionals confidence in the security of their employment and give confidence to those looking to enter the industry or those considering taking a qualification in construction that their choices will be worth taking and will be rewarded with a secure and lucrative construction career. 

Surveying Construction Confidence
The main cause for political and construction industry uncertainty is due to next year’s general election and its currently unpredictable outcome. This is what is causing concern for many businesses according to a report from the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) and the URS.

Their joint survey sample was of 443 business leaders of which a big proportion felt that the UK infrastructure industry would be affected over the next 5 year governmental period. Between 57% and 67% of the polled businesses felt this would be the case in the two key areas of transport and energy respectively.

Almost all of those questioned felt that politics in one form or another is the main problem; the causes ranging from ‘political uncertainty’ (96%) to ‘political rhetoric’ (93%). Both of these problems are felt to be deterring investment and affecting confidence in UK infrastructure according to the business leaders.  This is despite their generally positive support for government policies such as the UK Guarantee Scheme and the pro-growth planning reforms.

Might Investment for UK infrastructure Suffer?
Business leaders fear that current uncertainty wont help to encourage investment which is much needed for many of these projects. This, despite the fact that the Chinese premier Li Keqiang signed a deal to invest in the UK’s rail infrastructure and nuclear energy earlier in the year.

One of the biggest hindrances the business community sees is the fact that governments only plan for the short term, typically the five years they are in power initially. They may have plans to carry this forward and develop it, as long as they are voted back in but nothing is certain. This is why an independent commission is favoured.

An Independent Infrastructure Commission?
The survey also found considerable support in the idea suggested earlier in the year by Sir John Armitt for an independent infrastructure commission with a remit to look at the country’s needs in energy and infrastructure at least 25 – 30 years into the future. Armitt recommended reviews of the plans every ten years and a fast turn around i.e. parliamentary vote on proposed priorities. This would address long-term needs and not be restricted to the lifespan of any political term of office. 

The Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) also supports this proposal confirming that with no shortage of opportunities of foreign investment for UK infrastructure projects, the problems lie with government and their hesitation to make the necessary decisions and provide long term continuity.

Planning well ahead of time they feel could reduce these problems as the general agreements would or could be in place long before projects come to fruition.

Career Possibilities
Whatever the outcomes regarding the creation of the independent commission, or the general election in 2015 for that matter, the recruitment teams at Maxim Recruitment see a bright future for the construction industry both in the UK and internationally.  For your best chances to take advantage of the latest and best job vacancies in UK engineering, project management, quantity surveying and more, do review our website regularly or set up a job alert to let you know of new roles as they come available.

Better still get in touch with us via the Maxim Recruitment website with your latest CV so that your details are registered on our database!

Best wishes,
Adam Cadwaladr
Maxim Recruitment
UK Office

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