The Prime Minister is right to call for ‘build, build, build’ but not let’s not forget the need to repair, repair, repair, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) ahead of the announcement today to boost infrastructure funding.
The Prime Minister’s commitment to invest in infrastructure comes at the right moment when builders’ workloads, enquiries and level of employment have all contracted to historically low levels. Data published today by the FMB in its latest ‘State of Trade Survey’, the only survey to track key indicators in the small to medium-sized (SME) building industry reveal:
- 93% of builders say that the impact of the coronavirus is constraining their firm’s output.
- 82% expect the cost of building materials to increase over the next three months.
- 43% of SMEs are forecasting lower workloads over the period May to July 2020.
- 71% are reporting lower levels of enquiries.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The crushing impact of the coronavirus on builders’ workloads, enquiries and employment, as set out by the latest State of Trade data, sends a clear message to the Government that it is right to invest in construction. The repair, maintenance and improvement (RM&I) sector contributes 32% towards construction output so it’s important this isn’t overlooked in terms of investment. The pandemic has placed historic constraints on local builders’ ability to work, train, and earn a living. The RM&I market, the bread and butter for most small builders, has been the hardest hit. Almost half a million people left the sector as a result of the 2008-9 financial crash. The FMB is determined to avoid a repeat of this devastating blow to livelihoods and the building industry.”
Berry added: “The Prime Minister must use his speech today to inject confidence back into the RM&I market with a cut in VAT. Investment in infrastructure should mean housing too, making it easier for SME builders to build out small sites and bring empty homes back into use. We need a strategy for supporting the retention and recruitment of apprentices into the construction industry. Without these individuals, an infrastructure revolution will not be possible. In all of this we cannot forget the quality and sustainability of our buildings. A national retrofit strategy will help boost market confidence and unleash the army of local builders waiting to improve the energy efficiency of our homes.”
After the announcement, FMB has added to its response, stating that planning reforms and an apprenticeship guarantee are welcome policies for the construction industry, but building back greener is not possible without investing in insulating our homes.
Local builders and building contractors are the foundation of the construction industry and employ hundreds of thousands of people across the UK. Boosting activity in this sector through a national energy efficiency retrofit strategy will help provide local growth.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “A complex planning system hampers the ability of small to medium-sized (SME) house builders to bring forward new homes. I therefore welcome the Prime Minister’s statement of intent to radically reform this process. Builders have been concerned for years that the planning system needs updating so as to alleviate workloads for stretched departments but also to speed up decisions. More money for the Home Builders Fund is positive, but this must now be open to micro builders delivering five homes or fewer, often on small brownfield sites. The apprenticeship guarantee will be vital in construction where we have been experiencing a skills shortage for many years.”
Berry concluded: “It is not possible to ‘build back greener’ and better without upgrading our existing buildings, however. Heating our homes accounts for 20% of total UK carbon emissions and these buildings must be insulated as soon as possible to achieve net zero by 2050. This programme of work will also help to boost activity in the repair and maintenance building sector which has seen workload, employment levels and enquiries all fall to historic lows this year. These firms employ hundreds of thousands of people, and SMEs train 71% of apprentices in construction. They are key to the levelling up agenda and boosting regional growth.”