The Conservative manifesto: a blueprint for prosperous SMEs?
Theresa May launched the Conservative manifesto in Halifax, ahead of the general election on 8 June.
Although there could have been further detail, the National Federation of Builders (NFB) believes that the Conservatives have listened to the concerns of the construction industry.
The NFB has campaigned for action against late payment and for more inclusive public procurement. With policies such as mandating compliance with the Prompt Payment Code and pledging 33% of central government procurement spending with SMEs, the NFB believes that the Conservatives have listened.
The Conservatives would also cut corporation tax down to 17%, support business rate relief for SMEs, cut regulation through the Red Tape Challenge, and support industries of strategic value through a National Productivity Investment Fund of £23 billion. As the beating heart of regional economies, SMEs will ensure that these policies are effectively enacted.
On skills, the Conservatives have promised to replace more than 13,000 existing technical qualifications with T-Levels, which will include three-month work placements. They have also pledged to set up a UCAS portal for technical education degrees and match skills according to local business needs.
The Conservatives have committed to listen to recommendations from the Migrant Advisory Committee on how visas should align with the industrial strategy at a national and regional level after Brexit. Nevertheless, companies employing non-EU workers will see their skills charge rise to £2,000 per worker by 2022.
Since construction SMEs train two-thirds of construction apprentices, the NFB would like to have seen the manifesto tackle the shortcomings of the apprenticeship levy. However, the manifesto has promised to pass levy funds and apprentices to SME firms across the supply chain.
On housing, the NFB and the House Builders Association (HBA) welcomed the reinforced focus on supply diversity and opening up the market alongside the Housing White Paper.
The Conservatives have promised to reform compulsory purchase orders and how council houses are built. They also pledged to build one million new homes by 2020, deliver an additional 500,000 homes by 2022, and provide another 160,000 on public land.
Rico Wojtulewicz, policy advisor for the HBA, said: “We have worked hard with Government to help them understand the importance of diversity across local communities and regional economies. Seeing our work reflected in the Conservative Party manifesto is exciting.”
The HBA believes the manifesto could have focused more on planning, but nonetheless welcomes suggestions to depoliticise the planning system, improve utility infrastructure, and calls for greater digitalisation.
Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: “The NFB looks forward to working with Government to ensure that policies reflect the needs and reality of the construction industry. Previous administrations have talked the talk, but never walked the walk. Over the coming years, we will certainly be finding out whether this manifesto is for a ‘Stronger Britain and a Prosperous Future’.”