The PM’s speech stole the headlines last Wednesday but what was said about infrastructure at this year’s Conservative Party conference?
Before the political party conference’s it is not unusual to see some policy announcements leaked to the media but this year the Conservatives revealed little until the actual event in Manchester.
Their major policy announcements included:
- Prime Minister’s pledge for an extra £2bn for affordable housing which will be available to councils to build their own homes.
- The Chancellor reaffirming government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse by announcing an extra £300m funding for rail in the region.
- The Transport Secretary’s reiteration that the government will give the final go-ahead to a third runway at Heathrow within the next 10 months.
The fringe events during conference – where industry and MPs have open and frank debates about what the government is up to – gave ICE an opportunity to voice our opinions.
We heard first-hand how the Industrial Strategy remains a focus for government as the UK makes progress towards leaving the EU. The PM emphasised this in her speech: “The British dream is still within reach…as we roll out our modern Industrial Strategy we will attract and invest in new highly paid, highly skilled jobs spreading prosperity and opportunity to every part of this country.”
The minister responsible for the Industrial Strategy stated that a successful industrial framework “has to be local” and warned that “for too long government policy has treated everywhere like it is identical”.
We used this opening to present our Delivering the Northern Infrastructure Strategy report at events and roundtables, with the PM nodding to the Northern Powerhouse in her speech, and a starring role for Andy Street, newly-elected Mayor of the West Midlands, who said the region is “powering the UK’s success”.
“If the Industrial Strategy is to work it has to be a roaring success in our regions and in particular in the West Midlands because once again Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country are becoming the engines of the UK’s success,” Street said.
He highlighted the region’s progress in driverless and electric cars, medicine, and transport – all considered priority research areas by government.
In the next two months we will see the “big, powerful and revolutionary” Autumn Budget and the publication of the Industrial Strategy. At conference, ICE’s policy team raised our Autumn Budget Representation key recommendations and our assessment on the Government’s Industrial Strategy in debates and meetings.
With infrastructure and housing identified as key to rebalancing the economy and in PM’s own words, “building a country that works [f]or everyone”, it is clear that construction must be at the heart of both.