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Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party conference yesterday set an important tone for the days ahead.

Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party conference yesterday set an important tone for the days ahead.

Brexit means Brexit but it also means let’s get on with it and start talking about the other major issues facing our country such as housing and infrastructure.

As one delegate said to me last night: if the PM hadn’t addressed Article 50 straightaway, it could’ve dominated debate and discussion.

But instead she tackled the elephant in the room and today we’ve heard announcements from the chancellor and communities secretary on plans to borrow £2bn for an accelerated construction programme and the creation of a £3bn homebuilding fund.

Elsewhere, there has been chatter in the party fringes around the government’s apprenticeship levy, as well as regional growth and the creation of an industrial strategy.

Skills minister Robert Halfon was bold on apprenticeships, saying the UK was “nowhere near the tipping point of where it needs to be” here, while the importance of an industrial strategy has been proclaimed by a number of ministers on various panels.

However, there’s a general feeling among delegates that, while positive, all we’ve heard so far are great soundbites.

On the £5bn of funding announcements, the CEO for SME developer Pocket Living Marc Vlessing said they were wholly lacking in any detail and that the government needed to drill down into the detail for the money to be used successfully (something he felt the government was more than capable of doing).

When asked by Construction News for more detail on how the government’s apprenticeship levy would work alongside the already established CITB levy (namely the fact the two overlap), skills minister Mr Halfon fell back on an all-too-familiar phrase – “we are consulting with the industry” – and declined to answer any more questions on the matter.

The Autumn Statement is fast approaching, of course, so we will no doubt be provided with more information on the above policies and funding matters then.

Hopefully at that point a clearer picture will be painted of what an industrial strategy will look like, because – as yet – no one is really sure.

The chancellor today said he wanted productivity to be at the forefront of an industrial strategy, with devolution deals driving that agenda forward – a clear signal of the major task business secretary Greg Clark has ahead of him.

Interestingly, one senior industry source said to me yesterday that, as things stand, Mr Clark has more responsibility and a bigger role to play in the country’s prosperity than the chancellor.

So all eyes on Mr Clark and what he does now.

Article courtesy of Robyn Wilson, news editor, CN (www.constructionnews.co.uk

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