ECA leader wants infrastructure cash protected

Grant Prior 14 years ago
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The new leader of the country’s electrical contractors is urging the government not to repeat the mistakes of the early 1990s and cut infrastructure spending too severely in next week’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

Steve Bratt, who took over as Group CEO of the Electrical Contractors’ Association last month, said: “As George Osborne rightly said in the Emergency Budget, ‘the UK economy needs to be balanced; save, invest and export’.

“This can only be achieved if public spending cuts don’t prevent the completion of crucial infrastructure projects.

“George Osborne has publicly acknowledged that the Government cuts of the early 1990s were too deep, saying that it was ‘easier to stop new things being built than to cut the budget of existing programmes’ which ultimately prolonged the pain of the previous recession, and delayed the healing process.

“In June, the Chancellor gave a green-light for key projects such as upgrading the Tyne and Wear Metro and redeveloping Birmingham’s New Street Station.

“This investment will create opportunities for people working within the regions and leave behind a lasting legacy.  I only hope that the Chancellor does not see this as ‘job done’.

“To ensure recovery, he must commit a steady stream of capital spending over the next few years to fund major projects. Mr Osborne must also prioritise support for SMEs, the backbone of industry, by making lines of credit more readily available.”

Bratt also called for training cash to be protected to prevent future skills shortages.

He said: “Having the right skills in our economy is the key to securing a sustainable basis for growth.  With Michael Gove’s ongoing review of vocational education, it would be disappointing to see funding support slashed, especially given the Coalition Government’s call for work-based apprenticeships to be at the heart of the skills system.

“In order to ensure the UK is well placed to compete in a global marketplace, industry needs to be supported and actively encouraged to deliver training. Companies already pay the on-the-job costs of an apprenticeship, and should not be asked to contribute towards tuition costs.”

“The last recession saw a dramatic fall in the number of apprentices as companies could not afford to train.  This meant that when the economy eventually picked-up, the UK didn’t have sufficient numbers of skilled workers to meet demand, leading firms to seek these skills abroad.

“If lessons from the past are ignored, then this will significantly hinder the UK’s plans to emerge as a highly skilled economy or to tackle the country’s ambitious sustainability targets which call for an urgent need to reduce carbon usage by 80 per cent over the next 40 years.

“As Mr Osborne rightly says, ‘if our country’s skill base and infrastructure remains poor then there will be no growth’, as such Government and industry must work together to ensure that this does not happen.”

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