Opinion: Cut red tape not capital spending

Grant Prior 12 years ago

Spending cuts are the darkest cloud in some very stormy skies ahead for the construction industry.

This week’s spending figures from the Office of National Statistics paint a worrying picture of a panicking Government cutting in all the wrong places.

The accounts showed that public spending actually increased in April across all areas except capital expenditure.

Talk about getting things arse about face.

Capital investment is the one area guaranteed to create future value and help the construction sector through these tough times.

Whenever cuts in the health service are discussed everyone agrees that doctors and nurses must be protected at all costs.

A similar argument can be made with infrastructure spending where transport schemes and public buildings should be the last to suffer because they provide a real benefit.

But we seem to have engineered a cuts programme where the physical investment gets dumped before the mountain of bureaucracy and waste behind it.

Chancellor George Osborne has talked a good fight about efficiency.

Unfortunately he seems to have handed over the implementation of the programme to a raft of public servants who will do anything to protect their position.

Waste in public bodies is still rife despite all the tough talk and the end result is that vital investment is suffering while the gravy train rolls on for many in public life.

The construction sector, like the general economy, is in a dire state in many parts of the country with any recovery concentrated in London.

The Government cannot simply turn-off the investment tap in deprived areas after decades of public support or we will create social divides deeper than anything experienced for a generation.

The great hope of the private sector leading the recovery is also being hampered by a regulatory regime in this country which stifles entrepreneurship.

Contractors are still tied-down by red tape with no sign of any relaxing of regulations.

Employment laws are a sick joke which leave many construction companies terrified of taking on new staff because of a tribunal system which starts off assuming companies are always guilty.

Planning laws continue to frustrate new developments and contractors are often obstructed at every turn rather than encouraged.

The message to the Chancellor is a simple one.

Cut bureaucracy and waste before you cut capital spending and let’s have a real red tape bonfire to set companies free again.

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