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Making our case to Mr Osborne
GEORGE Osborne must use today's budget statement to deliver on his promises to get Britain building, according to North-East construction chiefs.
Measures are needed to ease the public works famine that has contributed to 20 firms failing or closing, and up to 5,000 jobs in construction and civil engineering being lost to the North-East during the past year, industry leaders said.
Earlier this month, The Northern Echo printed an open letter from the bosses of the region's beleaguered building firms which urged the Chancellor to safeguard thousands of jobs. They accuse Mr Osborne of short-changing the North-East and backing infrastructure projects in London and the South-East.
Up to 3,000 jobs could be created if North-East firms were empowered to start small scale projects and plans for road improvements were fast-tracked, industry leaders said. Mr Osborne has come under fire after his previous attempts to support the building trade, such as the Get Britain Building campaign, fell flat.
It has emerged that the body which manages £350bn of infrastructure investment has started recruiting staff to get more stalled projects off the ground. Infrastructure UK is taking on about 20 extra workers to fast track applications for the Government's guarantee scheme put it in place last autumn to kick start infrastructure works that the private sector would not back without taxpayer support.
It has been widely criticised for failing to unlock enough projects and today the Chancellor is expected to outline measures to boost the scheme.
John Dickson, chairman of North-East construction firm the Owen Pugh Group and chairman of CECA (the civil engineering contractors association), said last night: "I'm not especially optimistic about tomorrow's Budget announcement because I think the Chancellor will probably introduce measures to encourage private sector finance to pay for infrastructure investment: this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is too slow for the present situation.
"I also think it likely that the Chancellor will announce spending on larger projects, which again are not bad in themselves, but they take too long to get moving to make an impact in the short to medium term."
The pressures on building firms were highlighted by a survey this week from Constructionline which showed more than 50 per cent of specialist subcontractors have threatened legal action during the last year to get paid while nearly a third have refused to work for a main contractor because of their poor payment practices.