Build­ing trade chief hits out at politi­cians as in­dus­try faces test over in­fra­struc­ture

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Business Telegraph - BY STAFF RE­PORTER

THE con­struc­tion in­dus­try in North­ern Ire­land has hit out at a “harm­ful lack of gov­er­nance” af­ter a dead­line lapsed for re-es­tab­lish­ing an Ex­ec­u­tive.

Con­struc­tion Em­ploy­ers Fed­er­a­tion chief John Arm­strong said the in­dus­try be­lieved that the po­lit­i­cal im­passe “has gone on for far too long”.

“With de­ci­sions hav­ing been put off, some projects stalled, con­fu­sion around the ex­pen­di­ture of el­e­ments of the cap­i­tal bud­get, and pol­icy for­mu­la­tion hav­ing been dras­ti­cally cur­tailed, there is a sig­nif­i­cant and in­creas­ingly harm­ful lack of gov­er­nance within North­ern Ire­land,” he said.

Call­ing on Sec­re­tary of State James Bro­ken­shire to “bring clar­ity”, he added: “De­ci­sions need to be pri­ori­tised and taken, and a clear and ac­count­able way of gov­ern­ment tak­ing these de­ci­sions needs to be es­tab­lished.

“Our pref­er­ence is, of course, the es­tab­lish­ment of a NI Ex­ec­u­tive. How­ever, fail­ing that, we need to move to a po­si­tion where the func­tions of gov­ern­ment can be ex­er­cised in a way that any other part of these is­lands would ex­pect as a mat­ter of course.”

Mr Arm­strong added that the Ex­ec­u­tive’s flag­ship schemes, along­side the bread and but­ter work of con­struc­tion firms such as roads main­te­nance, need at­ten­tion from a de­volved gov­ern­ment.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, we also face a huge choice over the com­ing three years,” he said.

“The Ex­ec­u­tive’s flag­ship schemes stand on their very clear eco­nomic mer­its. How­ever, a bal­ance must be struck in bud­getary plan­ning between how much re­source is spent on these and other ar­eas, such as roads main­te­nance, so as to avoid a mas­sive cliff edge for the vast ma­jor­ity of firms not en­gaged on the flag­ship projects.

“That bal­ance re­quires dif­fi­cult choices to be con­sid­ered and taken at de­volved gov­ern­ment level and, clearly, we are cur­rently not in a po­si­tion to de­bate these chal­lenges never mind take de­ci­sions.”

Among the flag­ship schemes are the A6 Ran­dal­stown to Cas­tledaw­son (cur­rently on site), A6 Lon­don­derry to Dun­given (at ten­der stage), the A5 phase 1, north of Stra­bane (due to be­gin early in 2018) and the Belfast Trans­port Hub, which should be on site in 2019 fol­low­ing a ten­der process.

Mr Arm­strong said a lack of gov­ern­ment has added stress to al­ready bur­dened civil ser­vants, who, be­yond the flag­ship schemes, re­quire “po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tion” for fu­ture in­fra­struc­ture plan­ning.

He added: “On bud­getary is­sues, not only do we still not have a bud­get for 2017/18 but we also face into a sit­u­a­tion where, for the next three fi­nan­cial years to 2021, we know ex­actly how much we can spend on in­fra­struc­ture works but have ab­so­lutely no clar­ity on how, be­yond the flag­ship projects, it will be spent.

“Politi­cians across the spec­trum would do well to re­mem­ber that the lifeblood of many of our con­struc­tion com­pa­nies, their staff and, ul­ti­mately, politi­cians’ con­stituents are the very in­fra­struc­ture schemes in ed­u­ca­tion, health, roads and hous­ing which cur­rently have, be­yond March, not a sin­gle penny of money ear­marked.”

Con­cerns: John Arm­strong

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