Government 'failed to reach public-sector building targets'

Construction industry report claims that upgrades in education, health and housing have stalled
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The Independent Online

The Government has missed a series of public-sector construction targets in areas such as housing, education and health, according to a damning report to be released this week by the Construction Products Association.

The plan to upgrade 95 per cent of social housing to acceptable standards by 2010 is well behind schedule, says the CPA, a building sector trade body. More than 700,000 social homes, about 18 per cent of the stock, are not up to scratch.

Plans to rebuild or improve the country's 3,500 secondary schools by 2023 are also at risk after one-tenth of the project was not completed by 2008, as originally intended. However, a revised target of 41 schools to open in 2008-09 has been exceeded by 13.

In healthcare, 125 one-stop primary care centres were due to open in 2008, which did not happen. However, plans for a further 150 centres in the three years to 2010-11 are on target.

In a foreword to Achievable Targets 2009-10, the CBI's director-general, Richard Lambert, warned that public-sector spending on new infrastructure is likely to be cut over the coming years. "Addressing the problems of the public finances which result from the credit crunch will take many years and whichever party is elected at the next election will need to set clear priorities for reducing public spending," he said.

Mr Lambert's comments come less than a week after he demanded politicians "get a grip" on the country's long-term economic problems. "Britain finds itself at what you might call a burning platform moment," he said on Thursday. "We can either take the bold steps that will be necessary to take us forward to a prosperous but different kind of future, or we can pretend to ignore the need for change, and risk going down with the ship."

In the CPA report, its chairman, Adrian Barden, said that any government spending cuts must not be too heavy or the economy and the construction industry could be hurt.

"Re-establishing the country's economic prosperity is paramount," he said. "Failure to invest in the education facilities, transport, infrastructure and homes will only serve to delay our recovery longer and undermine the skills and ability of the construction industry for years to come."

Capital spending on public-sector projects has accelerated under the Labour Government. In the past decade, investment has increased from £19.4bn to £48.3bn, with most of the spending going to education and healthcare.

The CPA report recommends that the Government should set out a long-term strategic vision for the NHS estate, such as new build and maintenance of properties, as well as a timetable to guide that work. The current plans only go up to 2011.

Having abandoned its Ten Year Transport Plan, the Government should produce "a clear programme of road improvements," the CPA said.

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