Turning election political rhetoric into reality

Consultancy and engineering firms working in the construction sector are standing by to work closely with the winners of this week’s elections, says ACE’s Guto Davies

This Thursday, voters across the UK will go to the polls for the first time since the start of Covid-19, a pandemic that has changed the very fabric of our society. A lot is at stake, particularly for our industry that has, despite everything, helped to keep the economy moving during these unprecedented times.

In Manchester, Liverpool, the West Midlands, and London, voters will be electing their next mayor. These are positions which, over recent times, have grown in influence with more power over issues like transport. London’s next mayor also has the unenviable task of reviving a Transport for London funding model which has been completely ravaged by the pandemic.

Coinciding with the mayoral elections, voters will also be choosing a range of local councillors across England. It is vital that local authorities and local enterprise partnerships are able to tap into the national infrastructure bank which will blend public and private capital to provide the basis for transformative local regeneration schemes.

In both Wales and Scotland, voters also have the opportunity to decide who will lead their devolved governments. These are historic elections with 16 and 17 year olds voting for the first time. The SNP is looking to secure a fourth successive term in office, whilst in Wales – the country that I am proud to call home – the Labour Party aims to make it six in a row. Both governments will grapple with current strains within the union over the course of their terms.

While these elections are all different, they are uniquely connected around the need to deal with the immediate impact of the pandemic, the long-term implications of Brexit, and helping to achieve net zero ambitions, particularly important in the year of COP26. The prime minister’s desire to ‘build back better’ and for levelling up, will also resonate with insiders in the devolved governments looking to politically reframe their own plans for recovery.

ACE members have outlined their priorities for new mayors, councils and administrations in a series of open letters shared this week. Our industry is ideally placed to be the delivery partner of choice. Whether it’s helping a devolved government lead the way on net zero, delivering new transport projects for metro mayors, or ensuring that a local council’s built environment is fit-for-purpose in a post-pandemic world, our members are key to turning the political rhetoric of these elections into reality.

As often is the case, the challenge comes with governments, administrations and politicians that have a short shelf life, when society faces longer-term issues. However, even here our members can be a constant thread, helping to address systemic problems such as net zero, even as the political backdrop changes.

Whoever wins this Thursday, in whatever election, the message is clear – we are ready to work together.

Guto Davies is the head of policy at the Association for Consultancy and Engineering.