EARLIER today (Wednesday 11 March), Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his first Budget to Parliament, announcing the government’s spending plans for the following financial year.
Key points from the Budget include:
- a £5bn emergency response fund to support the NHS in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak;
- drastic changes in subsidies for red diesel (Deisel used in off-road vehicles);
- over £600bn to be spent on roads, rail, broadband and housing by the middle of 2025; and
- £27bn for motorways and other key roads, including a new tunnel for the A303 near Stonehenge.
Rob Oliver, chief executive of the Construction Equipment Association (CEA), issued the following reaction:
Rishi Sunak’s first budget statement was rightly underpinnedby action to address coronavirus crisis concerns – something that has an immediate effect on lives and livelihoods. Beyond this there were some good and bad aspects for the construction industry.
Short term measures
The estimated one million small businesses that serve the UK construction industry will receive some welcome short term relief on sick pay obligations and business interruption loans. We don’t yet know, of course, if this will in any way compensate for the possible scale of business disruption over the next few months.
The announcement of £27 billion of investment in the country’s strategic roads network was most welcome – and we will look forward to seeing the detail of this. In his closing remarks, the Chancellor recognised that there was more work to do on the national infrastructure strategy. As recently witnessed over the legal block to the Heathrow expansion, the government refused to support a key infrastructure project.The full promised investment could get delayed or watered down by planning or court constraints unless government really commits. A good opportunity to “get it done”.
Red diesel tax concession to go in 2022
The Chancellor was entirely selective with his statistics in suggesting that off-road red diesel users were responsible for 10% of air pollutants. Ironically, motor vehicles, as the much bigger polluters, will face no tax hike and drivers will continue to pay about 10% less for their fuel compared to the start of the year. The CEA is justifiably proud that its members have reduced harmful engine emissions by over 90%, which coupled with improved fuel consumption is a “green” success.
Government has promised to consult on the application of this tax change and the CEA looks forward to being part of this process, particularly in support of plant hire companies and contractors who will be alongside us in delivering the promised infrastructure revolution.