Building a stronger construction industry

The Federation of Master Builders delivers Manifesto for the incoming Northern Ireland Executive 2022…

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has called on industry, policy makers and elected representatives to work together to “maximise the positive impact” that the construction industry has on Northern Ireland. 

The FMB has five key asks of the incoming Executive.

1. Establish a VAT reimbursement fund for home repair, maintenance and energy efficiency improvements 

The NI Executive should:

• Deliver and fund the NI Energy Strategy to reduce emissions. The built environment is responsible for around 40% of the UK’s total carbon emissions.

• Develop an NI Retrofit Strategy and provide a clear pipeline of work to give quality contractors confidence to invest.

• Invest in developing skills locally and improve cross-departmental collaboration to help NI achieve climate change targets. 

• Link building control standards, planning direction, and public tendering to incentivise environmentally driven construction methods.

2. Address the acute, worsening skills gap 

The NI Executive should:

• Increase funding for construction vocational education and place a higher value on apprenticeships.

• Recognise and assist the commitment made by employers, many of which are SMEs, to tutor, mentor and invest in training others.

• Address high dropout rates from construction courses to construction jobs.

• Help diversify the sector by addressing the barriers for under-represented groups.

3. Reform the planning system 

 The NI Executive should: 

• Change the underperforming system. Sadly, many skilled house builders are looking to work outside of NI due to the failings of the current system. 

• Increase resources for local planning authorities and develop a more accountable system for missed deadlines.

• Recognise the accumulative impact of regulations on SMEs by taking a more holistic approach to regulations.

• Learn from other regions and nations of the UK and beyond to improve the turn-around of applications.

4. Deliver an ambitious Housing 

Supply Strategy 

The NI Executive should:

• Invest in 10,000 homes annually over the next term to give the sector much-needed impetus and encourage more local firms to work within NI.

• Utilise a multi-year budget to deliver social and private housing.

• Bring forward local development plans to provide greater certainty to house builders. 

• Deliver a scheme that offers public sector land that is “shovel ready” for development to encourage SME developers to return to house building.

5. Simplify the tendering process 

The NI Executive should:

• End the “race to the bottom” in tendering and low-price allocations, used by some Departments, which drives down quality and delivery. Bargain basement procurement is a disaster for the industry and community. This needs to stop and a true value placed on quality.

• Allow flexibility to enable public sector clients to respond to unprecedented material costs that contractors face, which are driven by a global market.

• Adopt a consistent approach towards procurement and payment for all Government Departments.

• Public sector construction contracts must be made more accessible for SMEs.

Federation of Master Builders, Unit 10, Kilbegs Business Centre, Plasketts Close, Antrim, BT41 4LY
T: +44 (0)28 9446 0416