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Little referendum hangover for SME house-builders

7 Sep 16 A survey of SME house-builders has revealed that two-thirds have seen no significant changes to their project pipelines in the wake of the EU referendum.

The survey of 108 smaller house-builders in England by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) found that 69% are yet to see any impact on their businesses resulting from the referendum. Ten firms, however, (9.5%) had seen a project cancelled since June’s vote, and 23 had experienced delayed decision-making, with projects delayed or put on hold.

Those who have seen an effect, it has largely been down to delayed decision-making.

The survey also showed that SME house-builders are keen to see the UK’s departure from the European Union result in fewer rules and regulations imposed upon them.

Only a minority appear concerned about future access to the mainland’s labour pool.

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Asked what would be the most important thing for your business for the UK government to secure as part of the country’s departure from the EU?, respondents replied:

  • Removal of unnecessary regulation: 55.4%
  • Ensuring sufficient skilled tradespeople from the EU are still able to work in the UK: 21.6%
  • Ensuring material imports remain tariff free: 13.5%
  • Ensuring current EU investment in construction projects is replaced or maintained: 9.5%

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “Despite some fears that the referendum result might put new projects on hold, the overwhelming majority of SME house builders are reporting that no decisions have yet been influenced by the referendum result. This matches the view expressed by many small construction firms that so far, the market appears to suggest that it's ‘business as usual’. Only one quarter of small house builders have seen any negative effect on their projects from the Brexit decision, and most of these are the result of delayed decisions rather than actual project cancellations.”

Mr Berry continued: “Brexit aside, we should not paint an overly rosy picture of the situation facing SME house-builders. The barriers to building that existed prior to the referendum are still hindering delivery, and as the housing crisis continues to be a pressing concern, the need to empower smaller developers must be a priority for May's government. To this end, it's worth noting that more than half of SME house-builders state that the removal of unnecessary red tape should be the most important consideration for the new government as they begin to negotiate the UK’s exit from the EU.”

He concluded: “More than one fifth of SME house builders are demanding that the government finds a way of ensuring a sufficient number of skilled tradespeople from the EU are still able to enter the UK. The prime minister insists that freedom of movement is now over and if this is not likely to be replaced by a points-based system – as reported this week – crucial sectors like the construction industry must be reassured that whatever system does replace it, it is flexible enough to respond to our needs. Otherwise, the construction skills shortage will be exacerbated and ultimately, it will become a major barrier to delivering the housing and infrastructure projects we so desperately need."

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