Recovering from COVID-19: Prime Minister announces strategy to return UK economy to health

News

  • Coronavirus,
  • Policy

01 July 2020

Economy

On Tuesday 30 June, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave details of the Government’s investment plans - many of which will affect the facilities management profession – which are aimed at helping the UK recover from the coronavirus recession.

With a central theme of ‘build, build, build’ and commitments to build back better, greener and faster, as well as renewed pledges to level up growth, opportunity, connectivity and productivity across all parts of the UK, the Government’s recovery plans focus on spending on construction and infrastructure.

Although much of the investment had previously been announced and the majority of projects will not begin until 2021 at the earliest, many manifesto plans are to be brought forward, with the NHS and education estates in particular set to receive significant funding alongside other sectors:

Hospitals: an extra £1.5bn on top of the annual budget of £8.2bn will be made available this year for hospital maintenance (the existing repairs backlog is estimated at £6.5bn) and construction, the removal of mental health dormitories, and increasing A&E capacity. The Prime Minister stated this ‘will improve patient care, make sure NHS hospitals can deliver world-leading services and reduce the risk of coronavirus infections;. More details of the manifesto commitment to build 40 new hospitals are due to be confirmed ‘in the next few days’.

Education: starting this year, a 10-year school rebuilding programme for England worth over £1bn, which will fund 50 new projects (these will be confirmed in the autumn). In addition, the Prime Minister committed £560m and £200m this year for repairs and upgrades to schools and Further Education colleges respectively, as part of a £1.5bn five-year refurbishment programme for the Further Education sector. Although Mr Johnson stated that this investment ‘will make sure our schools and colleges are fit for the future… so that every child gets a world-class education’, the National Audit Office 2017 report Capital funding for schools found that ‘it would cost £6.7bn to return all school buildings to satisfactory or better condition, and a further £7.1bn to bring parts of school buildings from satisfactory to good condition’.

Housing: as well as announcing an overhaul of the planning system to give greater freedom for developers to convert vacant or unused commercial buildings into residential use without the need for planning permission, Mr Johnson restated the Government’s plan to invest £12bn in housebuilding over the next eight years to enable more people to get on the housing ladder. It is hoped that the creation of new housing stock will help to ease the overcrowding and deprivation experienced by those that have been hardest hit - both in health and economic terms - by COVID-19.

Infrastructure: £100m this year for 29 road and rail projects allocated from the money set out in the Spring Budget ‘to get Britain moving’.

Courts and prisons: £142m this year for digital upgrades and maintenance to 100 courts, £83m for maintenance of prisons and youth offender facilities, and £60m for temporary prison places; all aimed at creating ‘thousands of new jobs’.

A further announcement is expected from the Chancellor next week on the Government’s immediate plans to support the economy through the first phase of post-COVID-19 recovery. The National Infrastructure Strategy, which will set a direction on core economic infrastructure, including energy networks, road and rail, flood defences and waste, is also due for publication in the autumn. Our Policy Team will keep members informed about these developments and their significance for our profession.

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