Pete Hammond, senior estimator looks at a new report from 24 civic leaders on economic resilience and the environment.
If COVID-19 is teaching us anything, it’s that we urgently need a long-term strategy for recovery and growth.
Last week we drew attention to a report from the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland (ICS). Its report recommended a shift in public policy focus from simply using construction for short-term growth.
It argued for a development strategy, independent of government and the election cycle.
That strategy would look decades ahead with a remit to cut carbon emissions and help the economy become more inclusive.
It’s an approach we endorse. While we welcome the government’s pledge to “build, build, build,” it’s a short-term sticking plaster to a more fundamental issue.
We also worry, and have voiced our concerns here, that a rush to build could easily become a stampede to build at lowest cost and, therefore, low quality.
The real challenge is to set out an economic recovery package that creates resilience in our communities and reduces carbon emissions.
It’s therefore interesting that a group of 24 mayors and local leaders, representing 24 million people across the country have established a new Resilient Recovery Taskforce.
It says that: “The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the structural weaknesses of our economy to external shocks, and we are all aware of the rising damage that climate change will bring.
“Action now to revive our economy must be built on building in resilience to climate change, both by adapting and mitigating its effects.”
In its declaration published last month, the UK:100 Taskforce calls on the Chancellor to commit to a ‘New Deal for Green Skills and Growth.’ It wants to see a major push on infrastructure investment, public transport and retrofitting homes.
The group says that “the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed our fragile economic structures and the need to support our most vulnerable communities. The urgent need for an economic recovery has given us an opportunity to create a healthier, safer, more prosperous and resilient society.”
Its research shows that more than 3.1 million jobs affected by the shift to green jobs will need access to skills and training from government and industry.
The Taskforce has submitted a proposal to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. The finance would be predominantly met from the private sector with the Treasury investing some £5 billion via a Net Zero Development Bank.
Most importantly, COVID-19 may now drive greater consensus in the need to build strategically, rather than build for the sake of building.
In terms of economic recovery, community resilience and the climate emergency, the construction sector has never had a more important role to play.