Hi Anthony, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. You’ve previously mentioned that knowledge of how Government operates within the commercial sector is limited. Do you think this something that is improving, and, if not, how can the construction industry develop stronger links with the Government?
The public sector is changing massively and the construction industry needs to be aware of those changes and how it can respond in terms of the service offering and closer collaboration. I do see knowledge improving between government and the commercial sector, but they need to spend more time understanding each other, particularly within the construction industry.
The Northern Powerhouse plan has been in play for nearly two years now, and despite the vast majority of companies being aware of what this means, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), 21% of small firms in the North are unclear on what the Northern Powerhouse means in practice. Is there enough information being supplied to businesses on the plan?
The announcement of Business North was a very positive move by industry to get behind the Northern Powerhouse. (Business North is a collection of business leaders from across the north who will provide a pan-industry perspective to help deliver the Northern Powerhouse.)
As a concept largely driven by government, it’s understandable that the Northern Powerhouse hasn’t yet been fully embraced by business. This is likely to change as business opportunities become more tangible.
To what extent do you feel Skanska is benefiting from the increased focus on the North of England?
The emphasis placed on the north of England fits nicely with Skanska’s 5 year business plan. Our footprint is growing in the UK. We are targeting growth in a number of city regions over the next five-year cycle, including Greater Manchester and the north west. The increased focus on the North of England was a factor in helping the business decide to focus here.
Skanska recently won a major project in JV with BAM to develop the Northern Hub at Manchester Piccadilly. That win was an important first step for us.
What is the importance of the Northern Hub project in ensuring that benefits evenly spread across the whole of the North of England and not just in Manchester?
Transport connections is one of the 3 key areas of focus for the National Infrastructure Commission, which puts Northern Hub into context.
Skanska’s Northern Hub contract is part of a series of upgrades set to improve services and routes in the region. This is important because improving connectivity across the whole of the north has been identified as essential to redressing economic balance in the UK and supporting a Northern Powerhouse.
Anthony will be a guest speaker at North England Build 2016 at Manchester Central on April 27th & 28th. For more info please visit www.northenglandbuildexpo.com