‘Positive’ measures suggested to UK chancellor amidst Covid-19 pandemic

THE Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) has written to UK chancellor Rishi Sunak with a series of ‘proactive’ and ‘positive’ immediate, short and medium-term measures that could be taken to help the industry through the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

In the letter, ACE wrote that rather than ‘simply ask for a cash flow bail-out’ these interventions would ‘help to de-risk the future pipeline and ensure the industry is fit-for-the-future’.

The measures called for are as follows:

Immediate actions (over the next two weeks):

  • Make available grants of up to £50,000 support to SMEs to meet the digital requirements for remote working – to be spent on hardware and specialist software.
  • Provide £1 million seed funding towards a Future of Consultancy Business Case which would support the redeployment of more than 100 colleagues from across the industry.

Short-term actions (over the next two months):

  • Accelerate the development (pre-construction) phase of Government programmes, including schools, hospitals and roads, to mitigate the downturn in private sector work, and help projects become shovel- ready sooner.
  • Invest in Future of Consultancy demonstrator projects to focus companies’ investment and people inR&D and innovation while order books are lighter.

Medium-term actions (over the next six months):

  • Turn the high-level commitment of an “infrastructure revolution” into a reality with a clear publishedpipeline of projects in the Autumn to stimulate the wider economy and generate business confidence.
  • Provide tax incentives for the housebuilding sector and further city deals to devolved Mayors to encourage private sector development.
  • Invest in ACE’s Future of Consultancy to provide better ROI on skills and innovation spending, transitioning consultancy businesses to more sustainable business models which will ensure the entire sector is more robust going forwards.

The importance of the industry in delivering on the Government’s longer-term ambitions for infrastructure to ‘act as a catalyst for economic growth and in delivering on society’s net zero ambitions’ was also reiterated.

ACE concluded the letter by saying, “We appreciate that many businesses will be seeking support through these uncertain times, but our proposals are not a hand-out for poorly managed companies, rather they are investments in an industry which is key to theGovernment’s entire strategic direction for the economy. Our members are vital to any ambition for infrastructure investment to be the catalyst of future growth across the whole of the UK and key to delivering society’s net zero ambitions.”

Rishi Sunak, UK chancellor

Commenting on the letter, ACE chief executive Hannah Vickers said, “Given the strategic importance of our industry to delivering the Government’s clear ambitions on infrastructure, we have made some simple asks to help our members see through the uncertainty ahead. These are practical and tangible steps that could be taken now to provide much needed support, boost growth in the medium term, and ensure our sector is ready for the future.”

ACE chair for 2020, Paul Reilly, managing director at Stantec, said, “The Government has made much of its infrastructure revolution and it will be crucial to a long-term, post-coronavirus plan for economic growth, but the reality is that without support now, many will be unable to help make this a reality.”