Industry calls on Conservative leadership candidates to focus on big issues

Calls for Conservative leadership candidates to keep levelling up, net zero and major infrastructure at heart of agenda. (Downing Street photo by Nick Kane on Unsplash).

Leading industry figures have called for all candidates in the Conservative Party leadership contest to remain focussed on keeping key issues including levelling up, net zero and major infrastructure delivery at the heart of any new UK government agenda.

At the time of writing, no fewer than 11 MPs had declared their candidacy with initial campaigning, aimed firstly at fellow Tory MPs and then party members, largely focussed on tax. 

But industry figures have urged candidates not to lose sight of the big issues facing the country, the industry and society as a whole in what is still very much a post-Covid recovery period.

Stephen Marcos Jones, CEO of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), said: “For our members now is not a good time for yet more political uncertainty in Westminster. The conflict in Ukraine, spiralling inflation, as well as the erosion of political commitment with a raft of ministers no longer in role – including the construction minister – has the potential to impact on business confidence, investment decisions, and delay our post-pandemic recovery.

“No matter who emerges as the new Conservative Party leader, and our prime minister, it is crucial that the process is completed as swiftly as possible to minimise disruption. This also applies to the next leader’s programme and we expect that key manifesto themes such as the road to net zero, as well as regional development and levelling up, remain priorities for any new government.”

Colin Wood, AECOM chief executive for Europe and India, said: "As the process starts to appoint a new prime minister, it is imperative that momentum is not lost on the government’s big policy agendas such as levelling up, decarbonisation to reach net zero and infrastructure delivery. The infrastructure sector’s work is too important to be left rudderless and we will continue to work with local, regional and national government to safeguard progress.

“This government’s mantra has been ‘Build Back Better’ as we emerge from the pandemic and there is much to do. Indeed, in his 2021 party conference speech Boris Johnson said our national infrastructure is ‘way behind some of our key competitors.’

“AECOM is working hard to deliver large scale infrastructure and levelling up projects and transforming design to put sustainability at its core. To continue our work, we need political and economic stability, supported by a clear policy direction and clear pipeline of deliverable projects. We need ministerial confidence to make decisions and drive the agenda forward with passion and commitment, regardless of whether they will be in post longer-term.

“A key priority for the next prime minister must be that Britain continues to Build Back Better – as an industry we won’t stand back and see the job left half done.”

Jamie Holmes, CEO of VU.CITY, said: “In the midst of the chaos, it’s absolutely vital that we don’t lose sight of the previous government’s cornerstone policy – levelling up. The legacy of this must live on beyond Boris Johnson’s tenure. Following a spate of different housing ministers and secretary of states, the department for levelling-up, housing, and communities is in desperate need of stability and a firm hand to deliver on its many promises.

"At a time like this, a standardised planning system that mandates the use of digitisation and 3D visualisation has never been more important. The next prime minister must set out clearly how the government plans to deliver the levelling-up agenda and improve the planning system.”

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