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Spending review: the architects' reaction

The Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) has provoked a wide-ranging response from AJ readers. Here are a selection of the comments received

Christopher Littlemore, chief executive of Archial, said:
”The Chancellor might claim that the 19 per cent average cuts to departmental budgets were less severe than expected, but the reality is that, over a four year period, this CSR will see almost 500,000 public sector jobs cut, the local government budget reduced by 27 per cent, social housing by 71 per cent,culture down 24 per cent, transport down 21 per cent, energy and climate down 18.7 per cent and defence down 7.5 per cent.

‘The Chancellor’s commitment to investing £30bn in transport and infrastructure and the protection of NHS spending, which will rise year on year over the period over and above inflation, are to be welcomed, as is his £15.8bn commitment to maintaining the school estate in England over the next four years.

‘However, capital spending on schools is to be severely reduced – from £7.5bn per annum to £3.4bn by 2014/15 – reflecting the demise of the Building Schools for the Future programme. This suggests that the Chancellor is committing money to spend within schools rather than providing the necessary, and long overdue, investment in building new schools or refurbishing existing buildings. This is of particular concern to architects active in the education sector, and of course to pupils, parents and teachers coping with premises which are at best outdated and at worst dangerous.’

Nicholas Thompson, chief executive of Aukett Fitzroy Robinson said:
‘The government has focused largely on reducing its back of house costs within the CSR. This comes as no surprise to the private sector where comparable action was taken by companies up to two years ago. The head count cuts are obviously dramatic for the government departments involved but where these are most likely to affect the general public and architects will be in the 25 per cent + cuts announced to local government spending. Those smaller consultants and practices whose life blood is local amenity projects are likely to be very worried by this announcement.

‘In the commercial sector and for larger practices such as ours there will be winners and losers. There is still uncertainty over the big public sector projects, with the potential for more infrastructure projects being cut or put on hold and substantially fewer new projects in the pipeline. Next week is likely to shed more light on the impact of the CSR, particularly with regard to the larger transport projects when the National Infrastructure Plan is revealed.”

Karl Sharro, PLP Architecture, said:
‘The Government’s commitment to transport, green energy, science and the skills agenda is a positive move that will help to build on the UK’s competitive advantages as a location for major global businesses.
‘The commitment to move forward with Crossrail, and next week’s unveiling of further detail in relation to transport improvements, should be good news for the architectural and construction industries.  Likewise, the promise to invest in re-building or re-furbishing 600 schools will perhaps help soften the blow of a restricted public sector project pipeline, and ensure future generations benefit from a 21st century learning environment. The decision to fund the development of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation at St Pancras [designed by PLP] will further the rejuvenation of this major London gateway, and also greatly advance Britain’s competitive role internationally in scientific research.’

Richard Nelson, Watkins Gray International, said:
‘It was encouraging to see that sectors such as health, education and defence are all relatively protected by the spending review, and this in turn should contribute a modicum of encouragement to architects working in these sectors, though of course in terms of the fine detail of capital spending it’s a wait-and-see situation. 

‘I’d hazard that there does seem to be an opportunity here for innovative architects to actively assist those departments with less cash to spend by coming up with new solutions for designing and delivering projects that reduce costs.  These creative solutions might include proven modular and prefabricated construction methods, for example, though I’m certain this is not something that the most extravagant designers would want to hear.’

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