Reaction lukewarm to Autumn Statement measures

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The waste and resources sector has welcomed some of the measures in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, but would like to see more.

Chancellor Philip Hammond in the Autumn Statement announced that spending on infrastructure would rise from £14 billion in 2016/17 to £22 billion in 2020/21.

This investment will be headed by the National Infrastructure Commission, which includes waste in one of its six priority areas.

CIWM chief executive Colin Church said: “Mr Hammond’s attention has been rightly focused today on setting a stable course for the economy in light of the current state of the UK’s finances and Brexit uncertainty, and the targeted funding support for innovation and infrastructure is welcome.

“However, CIWM is concerned that the Chancellor’s speech made no reference to climate change proofing future UK industry and infrastructure, or to any imperative for low carbon, ‘green’ growth. It is also disappointing that there was no more detail on the new industrial strategy.

“Productivity is not just about how much we can ‘make’ but also about how we make it.

“Ultimately, sustainable growth is predicated on UK industry having access to a range of appropriate resources, and this includes the valuable secondary feedstock materials and energy products that the waste and resource management sector can deliver. It is to be hoped that somewhere in the emerging detail over the coming months, resource productivity will be clearly identified as one of the priorities, especially given the impact that volatile commodity markets and potential Brexit-related raw material price rises could have on UK plc.”

Resources & Waste UK director general Steve Lee added: “In light of Brexit uncertainty, one of the Chancellor’s key tasks today was to outline measures to ensure that UK industry is competitive, efficient and resilient in the future, and R&WUK is pleased to see the commitment to infrastructure and to the important work of the National Infrastructure Commission, which has waste as one of its six priority areas.

“The £23 billion for a new National Productivity Investment Fund also augurs well – although the initial spending breakdown does not provide enough detail to know how much attention will be paid to resource productivity.

“In the context of promoting growth, however, there was no mention of the forthcoming industrial strategy, and no reference to the important interplay between the economy and the environment. Sustainable growth must be viewed through a lens that takes account of future resource constraints and climate change impacts. Given that there is growing recognition of this imperative across the globe, it is disappointing not to see this reflected, at least at a high level, in today’s announcement.

“Our industry will hope to see a stronger focus on these issues in Defra’s 25 year Environment Plan and BEIS’ industrial strategy and this will be an area where R&WUK is concentrating its efforts.”

While Suez Recycling and Recovery UK chief executive David Palmer-Jones said: “The government has recognised in the Autumn Statement the vital roles both water and waste play in the UK economy and SUEZ, as one of the country’s largest recycling and resource management firms, is pleased that both resources have been included in the National Infrastructure Commission’s definition of Economic Infrastructure.

“We still need more long term strategic vision and detail at a national level to ensure waste is treated fully as a resource for both secondary raw materials and energy, so that we in the private sector can continue to invest in the long term infrastructure required to help transition the UK to a more fully circular economy, yielding more economic productivity and jobs creation.”