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What does the coalition mean for construction?July 2010

How the coalition cabinet shapes up

It knows it's going to be unpopular, what with massive cuts in public expenditure coming, but what does the coalition mean for construction, James Parker wonders.

So the excitement of the election is over, the rosettes have been binned and the TV debates filed in the archives. David Cameron, the first Conservative Prime Minister in more than a decade and first leader of a UK coalition government since the Second World War, is fully settled into Number 10 with new political best friend Nick Clegg.

With the red gone from government, we are now run by the blues and the yellows. As every school kid knows, mix blue and yellow and you get green - will that happen here?

The day after his first Cabinet meeting, David Cameron announced that carbon emissions from central government will be cut by 10 per cent in the next 12 months. "The public will be involved...because we're going to publish the energy use of government headquarters in real-time so people can hold us to account for our performance," he promised. "If we do this, we'll cut the Government's energy bills by hundreds of millions of pounds."

The coalition parties are in broad agreement over the environment. Both want to establish what they call a low carbon and eco-friendly economy. This is naturally an area that will interest the construction industry. On the other hand, companies looking forward to more airport construction work will be disappointed, as the Heathrow expansion has been cancelled and new runways at Gatwick and Stansted likely to be refused. That leaves the high-speed rail network and nuclear power as the surviving major areas of investment, although nuclear is where the blues and yellows could start to see red.

The coalition swiftly dispatched Home Information Packs, but energy performance certificates will remain. There will also be measures to promote green spaces and wildlife corridors, so future planning guidance may be an interesting read. Thus far there has been no mention of Labour's zero carbon buildings deadlines of 2016 and 2018.

What will the new government have in store for construction programmes? We have already seen the demise of Building Schools for the Future, with 715 school rebuilding projects cancelled. A sure bet is that more construction projects will be cancelled or postponed to help reduce the £163 billion deficit.

Will the coalition look to private money to help fill the order book? If so less tax and spend, and far more PFI...