The Queen’s Speech ignored the backbone of the economy: construction
The Queen’s Speech tackled some of the most important issues of the day: the environment, safer buildings, healthcare, young people and Brexit. Yet there was one major omission: the housing crisis, says the National Federation of Builders.
The Government may articulate that its devolution plans are perfectly placed to fix the housing crisis but devolution contributed to it, by making councils the arbiters of plan making and permissions. It’s worked so poorly that the Government is now intervening to make failing councils accountable for their supply shortage.
The omission of housing from the Queen’s Speech also meant there was no mention of social homes, a vital ingredient in making housing affordable and supporting the wider construction supply chain.
If the Government wants a more prosperous Britain, it must recognise how important housing is. Not only because it’s closely tied to increased productivity and stronger communities but because housing and construction are the backbone of our economy.
7.4% of the UK is employed in construction. It represents 17% of businesses and contributes more than £113bn pounds to the economy. A fifth of small business operate in construction, SMEs are our predominant rural employers and train four in five construction apprentices. Construction output has grown in every UK region.
Construction is an economic necessity but unless it’s nurtured and supported, its regional and national benefits are in danger of slipping away.
Late payment closes 50,000 businesses every year and construction insolvency is increasing. In the last 30 years, 80% of small and medium sized housebuilders have ceased trading. EU industry employees are leaving in droves and a fifth of construction workers are due to retire in 2021.
The Government believes that modular and offsite construction will solve the skills and quality crisis, and to an extent it will help, but that sector lacks standardisation and remains untested as a wholly safe, lifelong and maintainable product. A question also remains over whether offsite/modular workers will be skilled enough to work on construction projects, as many traditional housebuilders do.
It would be more appropriate to understand how the seven definitions of modern methods of construction (MMC) can bring a revolution to the entire industry and support new training opportunities.
This must be supported by wholesale planning reform, which will ensure MMC homes and projects get built, the right development sites are allocated and deliverable planning permissions are granted.
If the Government hopes to build 300,000 new homes a year and the infrastructure to support them, it must invest in the capacity of the construction industry and remove the unnecessary risks that currently swamp it.
Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders, said: “If the Government wants to deliver its ambitions and make Brexit a success, it has to end late payment, enable a more level playing field for procurement and reform planning. If it can achieve these three things, industry capacity will grow to a sustainable level and the UK will be in more prosperous and resilient position.”
The National Federation of Builders provides business and policy support to around 1000 builders, contractors and housebuilders across England and Wales. Read more about their work HERE.