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Labour takes power: an industry responds

5 Jul For those who still have an appetite for 2024 general election news and views, here is a collection of comments received since the Labour Party was confirmed as having secured a stonking parliamentary majority.

The prime minister on a site visit earlier this year
The prime minister on a site visit earlier this year

First out of the traps to comment was the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), sending out its response to the election result before 5am on the morning after the night before.

According to the FMB, the Labour Party’s victory offers an opportunity to tackle the UK’s housing crisis, both in terms of building new homes but also upgrading the ones we have.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “The election of the new Labour Government offers a fresh start to get Britain building. Labour’s pledge to build 1.5 million new houses over the next five years, and upgrade five million existing homes, are ambitious targets but very much needed if the growing housing crisis is to be addressed. The success of Labour’s housing targets will very much depend on two key issues being addressed. First, the need to reform the planning system to make it easier and quicker to build. Secondly, the urgent need to tackle the skills crisis ensuring we have enough skilled workers in the construction industry to build the homes needed.

“For too long local authority planning departments have been underfunded with the result that planning applications have been held up. Additional funding for planning departments offers hope that the planning process will speed up to deliver the homes that are needed. A long-term training and skills plan to tackle the shortage of construction workers is desperately needed, as is the need for some form of minimum competency level for builders to ensure quality homes are built, and the ones we have are upgraded to the best standards.”

Berry concluded: “The FMB will work closely with the new Government to help ensure its housing pledges are delivered, and that Britain’s builders can play their part to boost much needed economic growth.”

Next up, form the green end of the industry, came Andrew Griffiths, director of policy & corporate development at sustainability certification provider Planet Mark. He said: “We need to see the Labour Government take clear, tangible steps to demonstrate its recognition of net zero as the greatest commercial opportunity of our time.”

“There is a lot to do in little time, so prioritisation is key. Importantly, the new government must resist the urge to end and alter existing processes and departments established by the previous Conservative government that work or showed promise. Established last year, the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero is a prime example of a great initiative that doesn’t need unnecessary interference to rebrand/restructure in sweeping ways.”

“The work conducted by the Green Skills Task Force under the previous Conservative government must be followed through. The task force's report is complete, highly detailed, and full of insights and ideas from private enterprise. In principle this is a quick win that could be implemented quickly for the UK green skills revolution to accelerate.”

“However, there are areas which the Labour government does need to change. For a start, they must deliver on their manifesto pledge to reverse the damaging policies the previous government placed, for example restricting the Bank of England from considering climate change in its mandates.”

“Green energy also needs improvements if we are to achieve our ambitions and commitment as a country to be net zero by 2050. Establishing Great British Energy grabs headlines, but equally important are improvements that reduce the red tape and planning restrictions surrounding building green energy infrastructure such as offshore wind farms and electric car charging terminals, reducing grid connection waiting times.”

“And then there is data. Making the sharing of critical data for net zero planning far more fluid would instantly accelerate the UK’s progress to net zero. If businesses are to create accurate and realistic net zero plans, they need access to vital data like energy, water and waste usage. Currently, this type of data is often held by commercial landlords, who are under no obligation to share it with their tenants.”

“In the longer term, the Labour government needs to create a regulatory body for carbon accounting. Just as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulates the financial sector, we need an overarching governing body for carbon accounting to ensure consistency, provide guidance and to hold organisations accountable if we are to reach net zero by 2050.”

Peter Hogg, UK cities director at construction consultant Arcadis, said: “With a majority shaping up to be north of 170, the scale of Labour’s victory is historic. It comfortably punches through Sir Keir Starmer’s ambition to lay the foundations for a decade of renewal.

“Arcadis, like all businesses across the UK will be working to understand and engage with what Labour do now; what their plans are for economic growth, how they will deliver their ambitious target of building 1.5 million homes, how they will manage the tax burden and how they will enable a zero-carbon future for the UK.

“To date, prudence has been the watchword of Sir Keir’s Labour party and early statements have focused on tough choices and delivering on promises. That said, a temptation in some quarters to use an historic majority as a springboard for more radical steps will be hard to resist. Resist it the incoming government should, however, because what the business and investor community want from government is certainty.

“The size of the Labour victory should be used to deliver this, allowing government to pass legislation to achieve their objectives for growth. We look forward to working closely with the new government to support them to deliver a sustainable, profitable future for the UK.”

Muyiwa Oki, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), said: “This is a monumental moment for the UK – and an opportunity for Labour to prove it will deliver on the changes it has committed to.

“Its manifesto doesn’t have all the answers, but it shows ambition – not least to tackle the housing crisis by boosting the delivery of high-quality homes and fixing our broken planning system. 

“The time for bold, decisive action to deliver a safer, greener and more equitable built environment is now.  We look forward to working together over the coming years – bringing architects’ expertise to the table to solve the complex challenges our country faces.”

Allan Wright, managing director of builders’ merchant Civils & Lintels, said: “Labour’s win makes it imperative that they now act quickly to deliver on their campaign promises.

“A pledge to deliver 1.5 million new homes over the next parliament is absolutely to be applauded but will only mean anything once it comes to fruition. Having built long-term partnerships with both our housebuilding clients and our supply chain we very much look forward to playing our part in the delivery of these new homes to the nation over the course of the next five years.”

“Away from house-building, Labour’s pledge to develop a 10-year infrastructure strategy to guide investment plans and provide the private sector with certainty around project pipelines is long overdue as a national concept and should again be welcomed, but let’s keep the champagne on ice until we see significant progress in bringing both the concept and more importantly the much-needed projects forward.”

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Brickmakers are also salivating at the prospect of an upturn in demand. Rachel Hughes, marketing director at Wienerberger UK & Ireland, said: "As the UK acknowledges Labour's triumph in the general election, the housing crisis continues to escalate, making Labour's proposed measures both timely and necessary.

"For us at Wienerberger and our customer base across the housing and construction industries, it is imperative that the new Labour government delivers on a clear and actionable plan to accelerate sector growth. Its pledge to build 1.5 million homes over the next five years, starting with immediate housing announcements, signals a proactive stance. Simplifying the planning process and empowering local councils will facilitate more efficient land development, utilising lower quality 'grey belt' without compromising green spaces.

"It is particularly encouraging to see the Labour government's focus on addressing the skills gap through training programmes and apprenticeships. These initiatives will equip future builders with the modern skills crucial for our industry's growth.

"The government's commitment to a buyer-friendly market, with affordable mortgage schemes and incentives for first-time and local buyers, should stimulate demand, essential for our industry's vitality. The government's plans to give local authorities the resources and autonomy to boost housing stock and upgrade ageing properties are also vital for the social housing sector.

"The house-building industry welcomes collaboration with the new government. If Keir Starmer fulfils his manifesto promises, considerable progress can be made in resolving the housing crisis. At Wienerberger, we are ready to support the delivery of the homes that future generations need and deserve. All we require is a willing government partner."

Neil Jefferson, chief executive of the Home Builders Federation, said: “We look forward to engaging with the new government on how we deliver its very welcome ambitions for housing delivery. Recent years have seen sharp falls in both the number of homes being built and the planning permissions being granted and there are some major barriers that need to be removed if we are to meet the challenge.

“We welcome the government’s commitments on planning. The recent weakening of the planning system and the lack of capacity in local authority planning departments are the current biggest constraint on delivery.

“We also need to see effective support for first-time buyers to address the lack of affordable mortgage finance, and workable solutions to the nutrients issue that is holding up around 160,000 homes.

“If government can create a pro-development policy environment the industry stands ready to deliver. Building the homes the country needs will address the social issues our housing crisis is creating, provide young people with access to decent housing, whilst creating tens of thousands of jobs and boosting investment in communities in every area of the country.”

Trevor Wilkins, managing director of PAH Building & Construction, said: “Labour’s manifesto promises to overhaul the apprenticeship levy must now be met with action. In order to show support for SMEs in the construction sector, the new Government should provide easier access to apprenticeship funds and provide incentives to recruit and retain talent in the industry to close the critical skills gap.

“Labour must now work closely with the industry to produce its “growth and skills levy” with a fresh approach to get our economy growing and to support the invaluable trade skills needed to meet new housebuilding targets and retrofit our existing stock."

Viki Bell, director of operations at the Construction Equipment Association, said: “Labour’s plans to introduce a new industrial strategy, developed in partnership with businesses through an Industrial Strategy Council, will leverage Britain’s strengths in life sciences, digital, creative industries, financial services, and clean power. This collaboration will drive growth and innovation, benefiting the construction equipment industry and the wider economy.

“The party’s promise to build 1.5 million new homes in England over the next five years is a remarkable initiative that will stimulate demand in the construction equipment sector, a level of housebuilding not seen since the 1960s. This very ambitious target and reforms in housebuilding economics and bureaucracy will likely boost private sector participation, benefiting our industry significantly.

“Decarbonisation remains a critical priority for us. Labour's substantial investment of £23.7 billion in green measures during the next parliament emphasises the central role of green policies in driving growth and prosperity. We anticipate robust support from the Labour Government in advancing innovative technologies, including electric and hydrogen-powered machinery. Establishing a national alternative fuel infrastructure is essential, and we look forward to contributing to these transformative efforts.

“The party’s plan to allocate £1.7 billion a year for the Great British Energy company aims to accelerate the roll-out of renewables and nuclear power, creating 650,000 jobs by 2030. This initiative will drive industrial renewal, lower energy bills, and ensure secure, clean energy supplies, promoting a stable environment for construction projects.

“The digitalisation of our industry is another important area. We are ready to collaborate on harmonising digital legislation and enhancing cybersecurity measures. Addressing the skills gap is imperative for maintaining our competitive edge, and we are eager to work with Labour to attract and develop the next generation of talent.

“Lastly, we urge the new government to ensure regulatory stability and alignment with European standards, vital for maintaining our international competitiveness. Together, we can adopt a sustainable, innovative, and prosperous future for the UK construction equipment sector."

John Newcomb, chief executive of the Builders Merchants Federation, said: “Sir Keir, Angela Rayner and Rachel Reeves have signalled their desire and determination to be ‘the builders, not the blockers’. We welcome the fresh impetus they bring to inject more urgency into building more new homes and to reform the planning system.

“The new government has a clear idea of what it wants to do and must now show a sense of purpose to get on with building a million and a half new homes. We look forward to their much-anticipated Housing Recovery Plan and hearing what ministers want to do in their first 100 days.

“We note Labour’s manifesto promise for an additional £6.5bn to upgrade the energy efficiency of five million homes to cut bills for families. BMF members have a key role to play as they make and deliver the majority of materials and products needed to upgrade properties and improve living standards as we move towards decarbonising homes and electrifying heating.

“But this can only be achieved with unrelenting efforts by government and industry, working together in partnership, to complete the necessary improvements that many households urgently need”.

“We stand ready to help ministers with this vital work and look forward to our first meeting with Angela Rayner and Matthew Pennycook to Get Britain Building Again”.

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