While the Construction Leadership Council can claim some success towards some of the goals set down for it in the landmark Construction 2025 strategy document, improving the fortunes of Britain’s building products sector has not been one of them.
In 2013, when Construction 2025 set out a target of reducing the building materials balance of trade deficit by 50% by 2025, the deficit stood at £6bn.
By 2019 the deficit had not shrunk at all but widened to reach £10.4bn.
Thanks to Covid, the deficit narrowed to £9.0bn in 2020 – but in 2021 it was higher than ever, reaching £13.2bn.
In 2021 the UK imported £20.5bn worth of construction materials and exported £7.3bn.
In the first quarter of 2022, the UK imported £3.26bn more construction products and materials than it exported. [Source here.]
Hardwood import volumes rose by 30% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, which was the highest Q1 import volumes seen for this market in the 21st century.
Construction 2025, published in 2013, set out four specific targets and the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) was set up as a joint industry-government body to deliver them. They were:
- A 33% reduction in both the initial cost of construction and the whole life cost of assets
- A 50% reduction in the overall time from inception to completion for new build and refurbished assets
- A 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment
- A 50% reduction in the trade gap between total exports and total imports for construction products and materials.
Progress has been on the first three, but the fourth has moved further away than ever.
While the Construction Leadership Council is still ostensibly meant to be getting the annual deficit down to £3bn in the next three years – the CLC was set up specifically to implement the strategy set down in Construction 2025 – it appears to be hoping that no one else is paying too much attention to products and materials either and is highlighting instead the UK’s long-standing success in exporting professional services.
Asked recently whether narrowing the balance of trade by 50% remained a target, a CLC spokesman said: “The CLC works closely with the Department for International Trade to increase UK exports in products and services, including digital technologies such as BIM. Successes include over £100m of UK BIM exports to Peru, as well as other exports of services to countries all over the world.”