Is Britain Ready to Build Its Way out of the Pandemic?

Boris Johnson famously coined three phrases at the start of the pandemic – “we’ve built out of the recession before, we’ll do it again”, “we’ll build, build, build out of the biggest crisis for 75 years with extra spending for schools, hospitals, and infrastructure”, and “build back better.”

In 2020, amongst other commitments to construction and infrastructure projects, the Prime Minister pledged a new 10-year school year school rebuilding programme with £1bn committed to the first phase of the project – the repair and redevelopment of 50 schools and FE colleges  in the worst condition across England.

That got us thinking, will the UK be able to build its way out of the pandemic, or has the impact of the past 24 months created too mammoth a task for construction to exist as the economy’s saviour once again?

Why construct?

Firstly, it’s worth understanding why the government chooses to spend money. Ultimately, it boils down to the stimulation of the economy, protection of jobs, avoidance of unemployment and promotion of spending.

The level of intervention and spending is largely determined by how bad things get – and despite some positive signs of recovery, there is still present fragility and plenty to suggest the road ahead will be rather turbulent.

Why we spend on construction

Research into expenditure has revealed that approximately every £1 spent on construction translates into £2.92 of value to the UK economy.

When we consider that the construction sector employs 2.7 million people and was, in fact, the only sector in the UK where pre-COVID there were more jobs in existence than at any time since 2007, you can see why there’s so much emphasis on the development of this area of the economy.

One project leading the way within construction that should bring music to the ears of those interested in economic recovery is HS2.

Project Speed Plan was initiated by the Prime Minister as he began the process of boosting the economy and last week UK firms were urged to bid for contracts worth up to £500m in total with HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson commenting: “HS2 has never just been about boosting transport – it’s about driving business, creating long lasting jobs, and building back better.”

Andy Swift, HS2 Project Client for Euston, added: “We encourage businesses big and small to bid for these packages and we are proud of the role that HS2 is playing in helping boost the UK economy after COVID.”

HS2, Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, has also been earmarked as “offering young people who are out of work the opportunity to kickstart their career on Europe’s biggest infrastructure project” in the Bucks and Herts area.

Building out of the recession is by no means a new concept – the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was an infrastructure project commissioned during the Great Depression but even this was just a tiny piece of the overarching plan developed by the US Government to reboot the economy – the New Deal.  3,470 fire towers were erected, 97,000 miles of road built, 3 billion trees planted, 711 state parks created, and, perhaps, most importantly, more than 3 million people were employed.

It should come as no surprise if, in the next few years, we see more and more construction and infrastructure projects being announced throughout each of the UK nations, commissioned by central government and devolved administrations.

Using first-hand Supply2Gov data, we can see that over the course of the past three months, there has been 17,045 contract notices published that mention the phrase ‘construction’.

If your business is looking to find out more about recently published construction tender opportunities, contact Supply2Gov today and begin your journey on the route to success.

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