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Relief expressed at Chancellor's Autumn Statement

24 November 2016

Initial reaction to Chancellor Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement included praise for investment in training and infrastructure and relief that had not been made in some areas.

An enthusiastic reception was given to the announcement of the £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund to be introduced over the next five years.

This is designed to fund improvements in innovation and infrastructure.

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) policy manager David Hawkes said: "It's clear that the Chancellor recognises that improving productivity is vital to economic prosperity.

"in the face of rising government debt, the temptation is to cut capital spending," he continued.

The Chancellor said government debt would rise to over 90% of GDP by 2018, although borrowing would fall to less than £21bn in 2021 compared to over £68bn this year.

Although predicted UK growth has been downgraded to 1.4% next year, it is expected to show further increases, rising to more than 2% in 2019.

Mr Hawkes further stated the CIOB's welcomed greater levels of investment in the built environment.

"Well designed and constructed built assets and infrastructure provide enormous value over time, both enabling and contributing to productivity gains," he said.

Specialist Engineering Contractors' Group chief executive officer Professor Rudi Klein said the industry would be "extremely encouraged" by the National Productivity Investment Fund.

He further stated that confirmation of the continuation of the Cardiff City Regional Deal and similar exercises in Wales and Scotland would go ahead, along with additional infrastructure investment in English regions.

"The government wants construction to deliver better for less but this has to be predicated upon government closely working with industry to raise the industry's low levels of productivity.

Professor Klein also said he was "very interested" in the proposed review by the Infrastructure and Project Authority to identify how government can work with industry and improvement the performance of UK infrastructure.

Additional announcements within the Autumn State included the rise of the National Living Wage from £7.20 an hour to £7.50 in April next year.

Employer and employee National Insurance thresholds will also be equalised next April at £157 per week.

An investment of £400m was additionally announced, to be made by the British Business Bank into venture capital firms, predicted to release £1bn in funding to assist expanding businesses.

A rise in fuel duty was cancelled, for the seventh consecutive year.

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