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Autumn Budget: Time for real action to boost construction industry

9th Nov 17 2:06 pm

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Brendan Sharkey, head of construction and real estate at top 20 accountancy firm MHA MacIntyre Hudson, outlines his Autumn Budget wish list for the construction industry: “The biggest challenge for the construction sector is a lack of confidence, fueled by Brexit uncertainty. The government must use the Budget as an opportunity to offset this, and the best way would be to put its full support behind one of the UK’s high profile infrastructure projects. Whether it’s HS2, the new runway at Heathrow or Crossrail 2, this vote of confidence wouldn’t just benefit companies associated with that development, but every player in the industry.

“Housing will be firmly in the spotlight and we agree that stamp duty is due an overhaul; it’s inhibiting buyers in its current form. One option is for sellers to pay this tax, given they will always have the means to pay from sale proceeds, and in many cases are sitting on a tidy profit from rising property prices. We’d also welcome an exemption for older people looking to downsize, helping free up family homes.

“There is a gap in the UK market for older people looking to downsize too – we’re lagging the likes of the US and Australia when it comes to specialist retirement accommodation. With life expectancy on the up, there’s a growing need for quality homes designed specifically for the older market.

“Theresa May’s commitment to more funding for Help to Buy is a positive, but there is still a shortage of supply. Issues in the supply chain have to be tackled, for example by making planning permission easier to obtain, or encouraging local authorities, Transport for London and the NHS to free up land for development.

“Empowering local authorities to invest, for example in buy to rent properties, would also be a huge help – with their commitment the big housebuilders could release large blocks of housing in one go, rather than in the somewhat piecemeal fashion they’ve been criticised for.

“Tax relief on innovative housing solutions like modular homes, and suppliers making the most of automated production, should also be considered. The construction industry is an important part of the UK economy but government action to date hasn’t been radical enough to provide meaningful support. It’s time for this to change.”

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