Industry responds as Labour takes power

Sir Keir Starmer - image:

Sir Keir Starmer has declared "change begins now" after a landslide victory at the general election and becoming Labour's first prime minister in 14 years.

Outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conceded defeat in the early hours of this morning as the scale of the Conservative losses became clear.

The infrastructure sector has been swift to react to the change in government – calling for collaboration, clarity and delivery of growth.

Kate Jennings, chief executive officer of The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) and the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), said: “In June we shared a 100-day plan for this new chapter of UK government.

“The plan contains practical steps including the need for an infrastructure and industrial strategy, investment pipeline and effective risk management, to accelerate the development of much needed infrastructure, while placing nature and biodiversity at the heart of all designs.

“The depletion of nature and the escalating need for climate resilient facilities, buildings and spaces, to sustain our planet and growth, means that this is the time to change how decisions and choices are made.

 “We look forward to working in partnership with our members and national, devolved and local government stakeholders to advocate and where possible help to take our plan forward.

 “Our members have many of the answers to the big infrastructure, nature and climate resilience questions; by partnering with government, we aim to help cut through the myriads of demands and focus on the most important measures that will shape thriving and safe communities and deliver sustainable growth and prosperity for the future.”

Philippa Spence, UK managing director at Ramboll, said she was optimistic the new Labour government heralded “a critical turning point in the green transition”.

“The private sector has not wavered on net zero, despite recent inconsistent political messaging across party divides,” she said

“Now, our new government must show it has the same strength of appetite to spur on green investment as we do.

“For instance, we believe it is still possible for the UK to remain competitive on the international stage when it comes to key infrastructure such as offshore wind, with the private sector eager to get to work on the government’s plans to double onshore wind and quadruple offshore wind by 2030, as part of the pledge to ‘make Britain a clean energy superpower’.

“Our new government’s proposed overhaul of the planning system and the creation of Great British Energy also offer beacons of hope for the industry’s path to decarbonising the built environment.

“However, now is the time to deliver on these critical manifesto commitments and focus on putting ambitious plans into action, and quickly, in close collaboration with the private sector. We stand ready.”

John Ord, UK&I regional business lead for energy at Stantec, said: “Everyone is on the same page when it comes to the urgent need for planning reform, upgrading the grid, and rapidly bringing more renewable energy sources online.

“But there are challenges to address around the materials needed to support these monumental efforts.

“There will be a significant demand for steel in the near future, and as a country, we need to ensure the built environment has access to the right resources at the right time.

“We’d like to see the new government put a robust plan in place to ensure we can quickly upgrade the grid to support the energy transition.

“We would hope to see continuity from the new government, honouring commitments made as part of the country’s low-carbon journey. For example, the cap and floor mechanism for long duration pump storage should move forward uninterrupted.

“The transition to renewables and net zero targets requires energy storage, and consistent policies that enable the critical private sector investment.

“Requirements for local authorities in England to introduce weekly food waste collections should now be backed by legislation and funding for waste treatment.

“We need to incentivise a rapid scale up in capacity so that as a country we can turn an increased waste stream into a valuable resource. To achieve a circular economy, we need joined-up thinking and policies.

“We remain optimistic about the future of the sector and it’s certainly a good time to be involved in energy.”

Peter Hogg, UK cities director for global engineering and sustainability consultancy Arcadis, described Labour’s victory as “historic”.

“Arcadis, like all businesses across the UK will be working to understand and engage with what Labour do now; what their plans are for economic growth, how they will deliver their ambitious target of building 1.5 million homes, how they will manage the tax burden and how they will enable a zero-carbon future for the UK.

“To date, prudence has been the watchword of Sir Keir’s Labour party and early statements have focused on tough choices and delivering on promises.

“That said, a temptation in some quarters to use an historic majority as a springboard for more radical steps will be hard to resist. Resist it the incoming government should, however, because what the business and investor community want from Government is certainty.

“The size of the Labour victory should be used to deliver this, allowing government to pass legislation to achieve their objectives for growth. We look forward to working closely with the new government to support them to deliver a sustainable, profitable future for the UK.”

Colin Wood, chief executive, Europe and India at AECOM, said: “The incoming Labour government now has a mandate to press ahead with the ambitious pledges for infrastructure investment set out in its manifesto, albeit against a backdrop of constrained public finances. 

“Delivering these will require a new level of cooperation from day one between the government and the private sector. Industry is ready to rise to that challenge.

“In particular, we at AECOM and our peers across the sector are ready to help deliver the Labour Party’s pledge to implement a 10-year infrastructure strategy and establish the National Infrastructure and Service Transformation Authority (NISTA). 

“Both initiatives are welcome news for the sector and have the potential to provide the long-term stability, governance and crucially, the confidence in delivery needed to attract the private capital that is vital to financing many of these projects.

“The knock-on effects of such investment are many, and include improved productivity, economic growth, significant societal benefits, adoption of new technologies and investment in critical skills and green jobs of which there is currently a shortage in the UK.”

Railway Industry Association chief executive Darren Caplan said: “Labour’s Plan for Rail, published earlier in the year, is clear that the railways are crucial for delivering UK economic growth. 

“Labour has pledged to bring forward a strong pipeline of work for the rail supply sector and to develop a long-term industrial strategy for rolling stock.

“RIA and our members now look forward to working with the new government to achieve its goals for rail. 

“With passenger growth returning strongly, and as we seek a fresh start for the UK railway industry, we urge the new government to deliver on our and our members’ five main RIA Manifesto asks: to publish a long-term rail strategy; bring about railway industry reform; accelerate new train orders and low carbon network upgrades; support a sustainable supply chain; and leverage private investment.”

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) welcomed a new Labour government and said that if it is to be successful in delivering growth it must work closely with industry in the months and years ahead.

CECA director of operations Marie-Claude Hemming said it was “imperative” government moves swiftly to unblock delayed projects and “leave no stone unturned” in pursuit of growth.

“Our membership includes companies of all sizes in all parts of England, Scotland, and Wales - all of which are ready to work with government at all levels to drive growth in the economy, boost connectivity, and create well-paid, highly skilled jobs.

“A booming infrastructure sector is the backbone of any successful economy, and we are heartened that the Labour Party has recognised the UK’s civil engineering industry as a cornerstone of its vision for delivering growth for the benefit of businesses and communities across the UK.

“We stand ready to work with the new government to make this vision a reality - by delivering world-class infrastructure projects, addressing pinch-points in investment, and ensuring the skills are in place to build the stronger, more sustainable British economy that we all want to see.”

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief executive, said: “Delivering sustainable growth should be the defining mission for the new government. Business stands ready to bring its innovation, ideas, and investment to make that shared mission a reality.

“The new prime minister has been given a clear mandate to take the tough decisions on areas like planning reform and boosting grid capacity needed to get the economy firing on all cylinders. What firms need now is a government that’s ready to hit the ground running and is laser-focused on delivery.

“Households and businesses across the UK have shown incredible resilience through Brexit, Covid and war in Europe. With the economy picking up steam, now is the moment to get behind growth. Setting out a positive vision for the UK economy and leaning into our international leadership should be top priorities for the first 100 days.

“Building a partnership for prosperity between government and business holds the key to unlocking a revitalised pitch to global investors. By working with business, the new government can deploy the capability and capacity of industry to deliver the connected transitions across net zero, the digital economy, and the future of work needed to put the economy on a pathway to sustainable growth.”


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