On the Today programme this morning we debated the impact of public spending changes on the construction industry.
I argued that according to the Office of Budget Responsibility – and most private sector forecasts – overall investment in the economy is forecast to increase every year to 2015 from next year. Business investment will rise substantially, investment in housing somewhat, whilst public capital investment will fall until 2013 and then will start to rise again. The total figures are:
2009 – 14.9%
Total growth in investment 2010-15 40%
Total growth in investment 2009-15 19%
I am glad to say the others accepted that total investment is likely to go up over the next few years. They concentrated on falling capital expenditure in the public sector. The BBC’s Economics correspondent said that public capital investment was going to fall from £38.9 billion in 2010-11 to a low of £19.9 billion in 2013-14, before starting to rise again.
I said the departmental captial spending limits showed capital spending at £51.6 billion this year, falling to a low of £37 billion in 2013-14 before rising again. I could have used the gross public sector investment figures, which show spending of £59.5 billion this year, down to £43.3 billilon in 2013-14, before rising again.
The difference is important. The BBC figures are net of depreciation. In other words they take away from the amount spent an estimate of the losses on exisiting buildings and equipment from wear and tear and old age. This is not a cash item. It is an entirely notional figure. Their figures do incidentally show that despite the cuts the stock of government capital continues to rise.
The correct figures to use to assess construction output are the gross figures. This is the amount of money the public sector spends on capital spending, raised from taxs or borrowings. It is spent on new buildings and equipment.