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MPA presses Government

Published by , Assistant Editor
World Cement,

The MPA has been pressing the Government to make Brexit work, implement investment plans and accelerate the progress of roads, transport and housing projects, ahead of the Spring Budget on 8 March.

In light of the Prime Minister’s recent speeches outlining the Government’s negotiating objectives for exiting the EU, the MPA’s main priorities relate to Brexit focus on investment, trade and skills to build confidence and encourage investment. Even though we will be leaving the single market, we need to maximise and balance free trade with the EU, with proportionate and sufficient free labour to fill the country’s skill gaps.

The MPA has made representations to HM Treasury pressing the Government for early project delivery, as evidence dictates that additional funding of £1.3 billion for transport and housing, which was outline in the 2016 Autumn Statement, is predominantly backloaded to the end of this Parliament.

The MPA is currently forecasting a similar declines in the sales volume of asphalt in England to that in 2016, which was 2%. This makes it clear that, despite positive investment plans, particularly for national roads, there is a relatively limited pipeline of work for delivery over the next 12 – 18 months. There is here an opportunity to bring forward some of the longer term spending plans.

The latest National Infrastructure and Construction pipeline identifies that total infrastructure project spending will rise to £66.1 billion in 2017/18, but will then decline for three years to £52.7 billion in 2020, despite the welcome funding increase announced by the Government in the Autumn Statement last year. It remains possible that infrastructure investment will be falling towards the end of this parliament.

The MPA has witnessed the Government’s commitment to accelerate housing activity, including the introduction of a new Housing Infrastructure Fund. However, the Government should also focus on the consistent delivery of a higher supply of new housing, especially affordable homes, with the Government maintaining neutrality over the method of construction.

The Government should also take urgent action to ensure that energy intensive industries, such as cement and lime, remain competitive in the UK. Current policy development in the UK and Europe could potentially increase the operating costs of UK businesses significantly, thereby reducing their international competitiveness.

Further points raised include freezing the Aggregates Levy rate and extending its scope, addressing disparities in regional construction and development, and progressing and implementing the Cutting Red Tape (CRT) review of planning and regulation relating to mineral extraction.

Commenting, Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive of the MPA, said, “This year’s Budget is an opportunity to build on what proved to be a reasonable 2016 for our sector. Clearly there are many added uncertainties in play, which can cause investors to hesitate so Government must aim to create a positive mood which encourages development of essential sectors such as mineral products and supports the growth of new businesses. In spite of the efforts made by Government to understand the manufacturing side of the economy there remains a worrying lack of awareness about the vital role mineral products plays in underpinning construction and manufacturing and this is reflected in this week’s Green Paper on Industrial Strategy. Foundation industries based on primary production such as mineral products will continue to play a critical role in our industrial future being the largest material flow in the economy and we would welcome Government recognition of this.”

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