NI Assembly Election - what do the results mean for the built environment?
The 2022 Northern Ireland Assembly election was held on 5 May 2022. It elected 90 members to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
With the dust settling after last week’s Northern Ireland Assembly elections, and the process of forming an executive underway, it is worth considering what the result means for the construction sector. In the run up to the election CIOB published a manifesto outlining our vision for the future of the built environment in Northern Ireland. In it we make a series of policy recommendations under the headings of quality, education and skills, net zero, and procurement.
With Sinn Féin, the DUP, and the Alliance Party accounting for 69 of the 90 seats, here we take a moment to reflect on what each of these parties have said about CIOB’s stated priorities for the built environment in their respective manifestos.
CIOB Policy Priorities
In terms of quality CIOB are calling for the next Assembly to create a stable policy environment for the construction sector with long term strategies for housing and retrofit, a national development plan, and accompanying financial commitments.
When it comes to education, skills and training, we are calling on the next Assembly to ringfence funding for the development of an A-Level in construction.
The CIOB has prioritised sustainability within its medium-term policy-agenda. In our manifesto we recommend that the next Assembly develop an accelerated and coordinated retrofit education and training programme in colleges, universities, and the private sector. We also recommend that the next Assembly, the 160 public bodies in Northern Ireland, those they fund and their sub-groups, implement a carbon metric, in their feasibility, planning delivery and operation of its own built environment.
Looking at procurement we have called for the next Assembly should introduce measures in public procurement that require employers to sign-up to sector-led Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Charters, thereby encouraging firms to being their EDI journey.
In terms of policy stability and quality, Sinn Féin pledges to build 100,000 social and affordable homes over the next 15 years in urban and rural communities across Northern Ireland. To facilitate this, the party proposes to revitalise the Northern Ireland Housing Executive so that it can start building houses again.
Looking at education and training, Sinn Féin says it will use the Northern Ireland Protocol to unleash the potential for well paid jobs in a stronger economy. This involves investing in rural communities, creating good jobs, improving productivity, and ensuring quality of life so the next generation has a future in Northern Ireland.
When it comes to Net Zero, Sinn Féin plans to increase decarbonisation in a New Economic Strategy. In addition, the party pledge to bring forward legislation in the Assembly to ban petroleum licensing, drilling, and extraction– including fracking.
Sinn Féin wants to ensure that Climate Action Plans are developed in partnership with farmers, workers and sectors and are economic, social, and rural proofed. To that end, the party also wants to create a Just Transition Commission.
While Sinn Féin do not directly reference procurement in their manifesto, it does allude to the need for an all-island infrastructure strategy.
The DUP wants to increase investment in new social and affordable housing, including a retrofitting programme to upgrade existing properties to improve energy efficiency. Part of this will involve a radical reform of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which would receive more powers to address the issue of vacant properties.
Education and training
In terms of Education and training the DUP intends to support 20,000 jobs in the next 5 years. This will involve delivering a modern career service in schools, an expansion of the DUP’s apprenticeship programme, building more new schools in the next 5 years, and a modernisation of the curriculum for the 21st century workplace.
The DUP’s plans for Net-Zero involve delivering energy efficiency schemes to support better-insulated homes. The DUP will also support calls for a Windfall Tax on energy firms and will make going green affordable to homes in NI.
The DUP has pledged to ensure infrastructure investment creates opportunity for local construction companies and workers.
The Alliance Party
The Alliance party has pledged to prioritise the retrofitting of housing for renewable energy sources and insulation. The party also intend to develop a comprehensive strategy to rejuvenate high streets and town centres.
In the education space, the Alliance Party intends to deliver the new Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland to address upskilling and retraining opportunities in the green economy. The party will also support a strong 14-19 Strategy to bridge the interface between school and college, apprenticeships, and training.
When it comes to sustainability, the Alliance Party pledges to invest in research and development to ensure Northern Ireland is a global leader in the green economy. On the policy front, the party intends to deliver a Green New Deal to create at least 50,000 sustainable jobs by 2030. Governance-wise, the party will create a new Department for Energy and Climate Change, which will lead the delivery of an improved Northern Ireland Climate Change Act. When it comes to carbon emissions, Alliance will implement an immediate statutory ban on all current and future fossil fuel exploration.
Of all the main parties the Alliance party has the most comprehensive plan when it comes to procurement. In the social policy and procurement space, Alliance plans to Introduce a Social Value Act to drive social change through procurement. The party will also create an independent infrastructure commission with a 30-year vision to prioritise, report on and drive delivery of infrastructure projects
From a policy perspective, the last two years have seen the launch of a Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland, a Housing Supply Strategy, a Programme for Government Framework, a Climate Change Bill, and a series of reforms to public procurement, all of which directly impact the built environment.
The CIOB has contributed to each of these initiatives through consultation responses and direct engagement with public bodies. With the election now complete, 2022 is the year to drive each of these policy areas forward, and to equip Northern Ireland to deal with the challenges that will face its built environment for the remainder of this decade. To do that Northern Ireland needs a fully functional Executive. We therefore urge stakeholders in Northern Ireland politics to ensure the Assembly is formed promptly, and that the governance structures are in place to deliver on the pledges made over the course of the election.
We invite our local members to read our manifesto and use the resources on our NI Assembly Election campaign page to continue to engage with local candidates and political parties on the issues it raises.