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Coalition round-up: architects ready themselves for slash in spending

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The new coalition cabinet is almost fully appointed and the repercussions of the new government on architects are beginning to emerge

A total of £6 billion is set to be cut from public spending, with the expansion of Heathrow airport one of the first major projects to be axed.

Tory Michael Gove (pictured above) has had a tumultuous start to his time as education secretary of the newly formed Department for Education. He was forced to apologise to the industry last week for saying architects and other construction professionals were ‘creaming the cash’ from the Building Schools for the Future programme, which is expected to be cut in the coming weeks.

Clifford Martin, head of architecture at Capita, said: ‘BSF will probably be reviewed and rebadged with less spend, certainly the volume of new build will decrease with refurbishment becoming the preferred option.’

Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt is the new secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport and has said the 2012 Games remain a ‘number one priority’. Hunt, who according to the Catherine Croft at the Twentieth Century Society is ‘unsympathetic to modern architecture’ is expected to announce an architecture minister, a role previously occupied by Margaret Hodge, imminently.

Speaking to the AJ about the coalition Chris Brown, chief executive of developer Igloo, said: ‘The risk now is of the pre-election stimulus unwinding at the same time as the European economy wobbles and the UK public sector contracts and unemployment turns back up and all of a sudden community relationships in our most deprived urban areas collapse.’

Meanwhile, former shadow housing minister Grant Shapps has become the new housing minister, in a move that has been welcomed by the industry.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: ‘Shapps has demonstrated an expert knowledge of the challenges faced by our sector and understands the need to incentivise local communities to accept the building of new homes in their area.’


Architects’ reaction to spending cuts

Nic Allen, chief executive of Devereux Architects: ‘We see this as an opportunity to be involved in the reshaping and redefining of public service infrastructure in the UK. Our experience of the substantial cuts in Ireland over the last year showed that by looking at the rationalisation and adaption of estates and buildings in healthcare, education and across the public sector we can ensure that improvements can be made even when budgets are being cut.’

John McRae, director at ORMS: ‘Cuts in public spending were inevitable regardless of who was elected and whilst it has been painful the coalition should look to the private sector to see how this has been done quickly and effectively. A sharp, quick and deep cut will benefit us all in the long term.

‘I anticipate that there will be an increase in private, and indeed charitable, investment to enable the realisation of public sector projects. This is an exciting opportunity for architects to work with a new breed of design patrons and make a lasting difference to our environment.’

Jonathan Hines, director at Architype: ‘Michael Gove, being named as the new education minister, is the worst news of the coalition government. He has been explicitly critical of BSF and criticised architects for ‘creaming off cash’ from BSF. Does he have any idea how much work we all do for such low fees??

‘Only Labour was fully committed to continuing capital investment in schools. They had developed an innovative programme not only of investment to improve fabric, but with a focus on using this investment to achieve transformational change in teaching and learning, through innovative and high quality design. They understood and valued the potential of good design to transform educational opportunity. I do not believe the new coalition government does.’



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