The new government should recognise the value of construction

Posted On: 
8th November 2019

FMB's Programme for Government provides a blueprint of policies for whoever wins the General Election to support this key sector of the economy.    

We need a national strategy about how our current housing stock can be upgraded to meet modern energy efficiency standards, says Brian Berry, Chief Executive of FMB.
Credit: 
PA Images

The solution to many of the big challenges that will be debated during the General Election campaign from the housing crisis to the climate crisis, to vital infrastructure investment to fire safety, from building schools and hospitals to restoring our high streets, will rely on good quality construction companies across the country. The construction industry’s contribution to the UK speaks for itself. It contributes 9% of GDP each year and employs 2.7 million people and the vast majority (99%) of construction companies are small and medium sized companies (SMEs), embedded in local communities

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) was started in 1941, rising out of the Blitz, to act as a voice for these small and medium sized construction companies. Small building companies had an enormous task on their hands to help rebuild London after the war, and they grouped together to form the FMB, to tackle issues such as labour and material shortages.

Almost 80 years later, the FMB continues to act as the voice for SME construction companies, and it is now is calling on all the political parties to recognise the value of local builders, and the key role they have in tackling the issues in the General Election.

Brexit election must address housing crisis, says FMB

To help guide the political parties the FMB has published, ‘Building for the future – ‘FMB Programme for Government 2019-2024.’ The 12-point plan for the new Government will hopefully help steer and direct the new Government to tackle the major challenges that lie ahead.

Build more homes

The Chancellor, Sajid Javid, recently called for an ‘infrastructure revolution’ to help propel the UK forward post Brexit. We believe that housing has to be part of this as we are still not building enough new homes and the affordability crises continues to worsen. The FMB is therefore calling on all political parties to commit to building at least 1.5 million homes of all tenures during  the next Parliament. SME house builders will be a key part of this solution but unfortunately they still face many barriers to building the new homes that our country desperately need. In a recent FMB survey 43% of FMB housebuilders reported that the main barrier to building more homes is access to land. We’re therefore calling on the new Government to free up more public land, in smaller plots, to enable SME housebuilders to enter the housing market.

Upgrade our housing stock

The built environment contributes towards 40% of the carbon emissions of the UK, so in order to reach net zero by 2050, policy interventions will be needed to reduce this figure. Clearly, we need to ensure we are building energy efficient homes for the future, but 80% of the buildings that will be here in 2050 already exist. That means we need a national strategy about how our current housing stock can be upgraded to meet modern energy efficiency standards. In the UK there are still 8 million lofts that need insulating, 5 million uninsulated cavity walls and 20 million uninsulated floors that need upgrading. We need the next Government to set out clearly how they intend to go about achieving this.

Promote vocational education

In order to build the homes and infrastructure we need, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) predicts that the industry will need to recruit 168,500 people over the next four years. However, the industry is already finding it hard to find the skilled workers it needs. For example, 56% of SMEs report difficulties finding a carpenter and 54% finding a bricklayer. While steps are being taken to address these shortages, such as the recently launched Level 2 Bricklayer apprenticeship, more can be done. For far too long vocational education has been side-lined, and those who have wanted to go down this road have found it a confusing route to take with an array of different qualifications. The new Government should therefore make vocational educational a key pillar of their education policy and encourage more people to choose this route. The FMB would also like to see greater reform on the Apprenticeship Levy, particularly to see more levy funds being passed down to SMEs.

Raise quality and professionalism in construction

The quality of the buildings that are being constructed and the professionalism of those building and maintaining them have been in the spotlight recently. Part of the problem is that anyone in the UK is able to call themselves a builder without having to demonstrate any level of competency or qualification. The FMB doesn’t think this is right and is calling on the new Government to introduce a mandatory licensing scheme for all construction companies. This would introduce a minimum standard across the industry, and a route of redress if anything goes wrong. The Licence UK Construction Campaign now has the support of almost 50 organisations.

Builders are ready for the challenges ahead but need supportive policies to help to support them to do so. Our Programme for Government, while not exhaustive, gives a blueprint of policies for whoever wins the General Election to support this key sector of the economy.