Executive restoration pushes for reform

Mark Spence, Chief Executive of the CEF, calls for pivotal reforms to revitalise Northern Ireland’s construction sector post-Executive restoration…

The long-overdue restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly has been welcomed by all in Northern Ireland’s construction industry.

Between now and the next scheduled Assembly election in 2027, there is an opportunity to fundamentally reform many of our key economic enablers which have been subject to years of drift and delay. That opportunity can though only be realised if our Executive works collaboratively, finally taking Northern Ireland away from the years of silo-structured government which have consistently held back progress.

Much work to develop a cohesive Programme for Government, Investment Strategy and Budget will undoubtedly now take place. Within these, we will be advocating for an economic golden thread which needs to have a number of clear objectives and deliverables at its core:

• Delivery of fundamental reforms to the funding and governance models of NI Water and the NI Housing Executive by means of the mutualisation of both.

• Introduction of a Planning Bill to address key areas of constraint with our existing planning process – notably the need for statutory timeframes within which statutory consultees must respond to major and regionally significant applications and the introduction of deemed consent where this doesn’t happen.

• Agreement of a NI Executive Housing Supply Strategy which sets an ambitious target of completing a minimum of 9,500 new homes for each of the next 15 years to meet our housing need.

• Putting in place multi-year capital budgets which would also include agreement with the Treasury regarding enhanced end-year flexibility and ringfenced capital funding for specific areas of investment.

• Building on the Irish Government’s commitments in the New Decade, New Approach deal and leveraging further investment.

• Under the Procurement Board, the reestablishment of a construction focused engagement body between Executive departments and the industry.

• Collaboration between industry and government clients to ensure the best and most appropriate forms of contract are used for public works.

• Support for a new Construction Skills Forum between education, government and industry to ensure NI has a pipeline of talent to meet our long-term infrastructure challenge.

• Agreement of a significant package of measures to enable the drive to net zero that must include a funded and ambitious housing retrofit strategy.

• Establishment of an independent Infrastructure Commission for NI to ensure better long-term decision making and planning.

We believe that these proposals, if implemented, would go a substantial way to putting the capital budget on a sounder footing whilst also giving an incoming Executive the opportunity to deliver on many of the key projects and infrastructure plans which are likely to form part of any Programme for Government.

From the construction industry’s perspective, their delivery would result in a timely confidence boost that can enable them, their staff and supply chains to work collaboratively with the Executive to ensure we collectively deal with the multitude of infrastructure challenges that we face.

For more information on the Construction Employers Federation,
T: +44 (0)28 9087 7143 – E: mail@cefni.co.uk
visit: www.cefni.co.uk