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Opportunities for future proofing the construction industry – CIOB launches manifesto ahead of general election

David Barnes, Acting Head of Policy and Public Affairs

David Barnes, Acting Head of Policy and Public Affairs | Chartered Institute of Building

5 min read Partner content

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has launched its manifesto ahead of the next UK General Election on 4 July, outlining how a future government can support the built environment sector.

As an industry, construction officially accounts for 6.3 per cent of Gross Value Added (GVA) and employs over six per cent of people in the UK, although the economic reach of the sector is much wider when considering its related subdivisions like product manufacturing, real estate and built environment related consultancy work. It is crucial policymakers understand the positive impact improvements to the operation of the built environment can have on the way people live, work and play.

As the largest professional body for construction management, we’re in touch daily with the key issues faced by our 50,000 members and have used their experiences to form our General Election manifesto, which outlines the role a new government can play in addressing them.

The manifesto covers four key themes; Environmental Sustainability, Quality & Safety, The Future of Construction, and People and Skills, and outlines short, medium and longer term policy recommendations.

Some recommendations are focused on supporting the industry while others focus on protection for consumers, communities and the environment in line with our Royal Charter, which ensures that we first and foremost work in the public interest.

Our public interest recommendations include improving new build housing quality, increasing household retrofitting to improve energy and water efficiency and reduce household bills, and levelling up. Office for National Statistics (ONS) data from November 2023 shows less than half of homes in England and Wales have an energy efficiency rating of EPC C or above, with the median energy efficiency score for both countries equivalent to EPC band D*.

Recommendations designed to better support the construction industry include addressing ongoing issues with late payments to supply chains and providing fairer opportunities for small and medium-sized construction companies (SMEs). There is evidence to show the role of SMEs in housebuilding has been slowly dwindling over time. In 1988, SMEs built around 39 per cent of all new homes in the UK but they now only build around 10 per cent.**

The issue of late payments is also a significant one for many SMEs. Attempts have been made through the Prompt Payment Code to hold procurers to account when they miss payment deadlines, however the Code, in its current form, is only aimed at public contracts, and is it also optional and honour-based. With more than half of all invoices sent to construction firms paid late in 2022 and data suggesting that many major contractors are paying 20 per cent of invoices late, we urge any future government to revisit the Code to understand its applicability to the private sector and what measures can be put in place to enable greater accountability to the system.

Meanwhile the worsening skills gap is contributing towards a perfect storm where the number of construction projects is on the up but there are not enough skilled workers and materials to meet demand. In a recent example, a worker shortage has been cited as one reason for the much-publicised delayed opening of the Co-Op Live Arena in Manchester. Such delays not only bring reputational damage for clients and contractors, but also lead to increased costs.

Recruiting, training and retaining skilled workers is a problem the industry cannot tackle alone and a review of the current Apprenticeship Levy and the introduction of a qualification, such as a built environment GCSE, would go a long way to supporting the creation of a desperately needed talent pipeline.

Alongside our manifesto we’re also calling for consistency and better coordination across policy portfolios. Since 2010 there have been 16 housing ministers, with six in one 12-month period, making it almost impossible for industry to form meaningful relationships with the minister. Construction and housing policy is split over multiple government departments which can lead to a lack of clarity in policy making, and having ministers come in and move on so quickly adds to this problem.

Our manifesto recommendations are:

Sustainability

  • Develop and implement a green skills fund 
  • Adapt building regulations to include whole life carbon assessments  
  • Develop and implement a national retrofit strategy 

Quality & Safety

  • Review the voluntary status of consumer codes for new-build housing 
  • Provide fairer opportunities for SME housebuilders 
  • Reform the current Land Value system 

Future of Construction 

  • Tackle late payment culture 
  • Develop and implement a strategy for Modern Methods of Construction 
  • Use geographical clustering to level up the UK 

People and Skills

  • Include EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) commitments in public sector contracts 
  • Overhaul of the Apprenticeship Levy 
  • Introduce a Built Environment GCSE 

The next government needs to know there is a built environment industry very willing to lend its expertise and we’d encourage policymakers to take advantage of this to ensure policies are practical and don’t create new problems, and unnecessary barriers in the process of solving existing ones. The construction sector, and the quality of what it produces, impacts every member of society. It is a key economic driver that is intrinsically tied to economic prosperity, health, productivity, sustainability and wellbeing, and with this in mind it deserves its voice to be heard.


* Office for National Statistics, Energy efficiency of housing, England and Wales, five years rolling - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk), November 2023

**Built Environment Committee, Meeting housing demand, 10 January 2022

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