Autumn Statement Commentary From MD Ben Harwood

Ben Harwood Naismiths Managing Director

Ben Harwood, managing director of national real estate consultancy, Naismiths, said: “This statement is okay for business, but in terms of benefits to the construction industry specifically there isn’t much in it – albeit glimmers of potential.

“Mr Hunt states that the ‘economy has outperformed expectations since last autumn’. This paints a picture of somewhat improvement, and while inflation and interest rates have reduced and this is positive, it is as expected for property and construction stakeholders.

“The industry has been riding this wave for some time, and as rates have been stabilising this has naturally meant an uptick in construction activity. But this does not negate the fact that all sectors of construction have and continue to feel the brunt of a still uncertain and turbulent market, especially the residential development sector, which I would have liked to have seen more support in the autumn announcement by way of more certainty for homebuyers.

“More measures for first time buyers if announced, would have had a trickle down effect on the private open sales market – providing more assurance to new build residential property developers and in-turn financers of large residential schemes.

“For large residential portfolio holders and residential retrofitting contractors, the announcement regarding a new permitted development rights consultation, which would allow any house to be divided into two flats, provided the exterior remains unaffected, is welcome. This will help to open up more property investment and development opportunities and increase affordability for buyers or renters of such schemes for cheaper flat properties when compared to a house.

“Investment zones support announced is in favor of infrastructure and manufacturing, which I believe later down the line will see advantages in property growth through the building of more advanced facilities. Building on Mr Hunt’s commitment to support R&D is absolutely welcome.

The “changes worth £280 million a year to simplify and improve R&D tax reliefs”, will go some way to helping also drive digital innovation in construction businesses, something that Naismiths will benefit from in support of the continued development and investment of our Naismiths Analytics platform.

“Finally, the uplift in the minimum wage by 9.8% and a cut of 2% to the main employee National Insurance rate is a clear pull for laboring talent generally on lower wages and will help to support a skills short industry.”