With a general election taking place on 8th June 2017, the main topic of conversation nationally is Brexit – what it means and how to achieve it. But all the usual political hot topics of health, education and social services remain as important as ever. For construction industry lobbyists, however, it is house-building, training and procurement reform that are at the top of their agenda.
Below are three election manifestos set out by different construction industry associations.
Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group
A future government and parliament should commit to three-points for a world-leading UK specialist engineering supply chain in the built environment:
1. Bring legislation to protect all retention monies in a ring-fenced account, as first step towards zero retentions by 2025, and prioritise review of the ‘Construction Act’. From 2021 all publicly-funded built environment work over £1 million should be paid using Project Bank Accounts. Payment security will guarantee a sustainable supply chain of SMEs.
2. By 2022 all publicity-funded infrastructure and building works should adopt smarter procurement methods as a pre-condition to the availability of funding. Best models of practice in public procurement contracts will drive positive change across the industry.
3. Establish a joint government/industry task group with a remit to develop proposals for a statutory licensing scheme for contracting companies. Building on current initiatives, incentivise the industry to aim for greater efficiency and best quality standards that will create a level-playing field for competition.
Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) / Building Engineering Services Association (BESA)
The ECA and BESA have produced a five-point industry manifesto:
1. Connect the output of construction and operation of the UK’s built environment, and making it a strategic priority, to enable the sustainable delivery of economic, social and environmental benefits. Engineering services is uniquely positioned as a cornerstone of both sectors and has a central role in delivering these benefits throughout the lifetime of built assets, and, as a key enabler, should be selected by government for a ‘sector deal’.
2. Ensure that SME apprenticeship training is fully funded for the entire parliament. At present, there is significant concern that firms that are not required to pay the new apprenticeship levy may not be able to access the support they need to develop engineering and other technical skills.
3. Ensure that government is a smart client and smaller businesses have stability of cash-flow and payment. A key request is for a digital payment platform in the public sector, linked to digital procurement processes. This would give greater transparency and speed to supply chain payment, and lower supplier risk.
4. Make energy, heat and carbon efficiency a real sustainable delivery priority within the next parliament. Achievable energy efficiency goals, backed by government, need to be fulfilled if we are to meet our emissions reductions targets in the lowest cost way, as well as offering a way for businesses to improve their productivity.
5. Improve productivity through action to enhance employee engagement. Government should introduce additional requirements in the procurement process to help mitigate against false self-employment and other tax avoidance schemes, and facilitate improved employer-worker collaboration, resulting in enhanced productivity.
Federation of Master Builders
The FMB also has a five-point plan:
1. Ensure that the construction industry has enough skilled workers
- Introduce a flexible system of immigration that allows key strategic industries like construction to draw upon adequate levels of skilled labour from the EU and beyond.
- Commit to increasing the quality, duration and thoroughness of apprenticeships and thus improve the image of vocational training so that we can attract more young people into our industry.
2. Increase the supply of new homes
- The UK government should commit to building at least 200,000 new homes per year in England and encourage the delivery of 25,000 new homes in Scotland; 14,000 in Wales; and 11,000 in Northern Ireland.
- In England, continue to work with the house building industry to successfully implement key recommendations within the 2017 Housing White Paper that are designed to increase house building through SME builders.
3. Improve the quality of new and existing homes
- Introduce a mandatory warranty requirement for all domestic building works that require Building Regulations approval and structural engineering calculations.
- Commission a review of new homes warranties to establish whether the warranties currently provided are adequate.
4. Make homes more energy efficient
- Reduce VAT on housing renovation and repair work from 20% to 5% to encourage refurbishment work, including energy efficiency measures.
- Ensure that any government investment in reducing energy bills is targeted primarily at improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s homes.
5. Boost growth among construction SMEs
- Ensure that the overall regulatory burden on small businesses is reduced as part of the Brexit process.
- Improve public procurement for construction SMEs and ensure local firms win a higher proportion of local authority contracts post-Brexit.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association lists its priorities as:
- maintain and build upon the existing infrastructure pipeline
- deliver a government industrial strategy with a construction sector deal
- rebalance investment across the UK
- guarantee the rights of EU workers living in the UK as a matter of urgency
- protect the pound via public procurement
- commit to remote onshore wind power.