Building the recovery

The FMB has four steps to aid recovery for the NI construction industry...

Amid the devastating impact of the past few months everyone’s personal, social, and business lives have changed dramatically. The understands that many have seen family, neighbours or colleagues face traumatic circumstances – and the need for compassion has never been greater. The FMB is proud of its members’ resilience and how they have continued to work through the adversity and challenges we currently face with a spirit of cooperation that has in many ways defined the construction industry’s response to the coronavirus.

The FMB is proud to sit on the Construction Leadership Council’s Coronavirus Task Force, ensuring the voice of small builders is heard at the heart of national Government. This group has delivered safe operating guidance, solutions to reopening the supply chain, and is working on a recovery plan.

The FMB are calling on the Stormont Executive to support the following four initiatives as a way to support the entire industry and drive sustainable growth:

(1) A national retrofit strategy
This will help tackle fuel poverty and improve health, as well as stimulating the RMI sector. A recent comment in the House of Commons by Jim Shannon MP highlights that the built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. A temporary VAT cut on these works would deliver vital consumer engagement in this aspect of the recovery and has huge potential to assist all sectors of the industry and invest in our current housing stock.

(2) Build more homes
The housing crisis hasn’t gone away. The FMB would like to see a wider variety of homes, with a higher quality of design and build. From small and medium- sized (SME) builders, to social providers, to volume developers – everyone needs to be part of the re-build. New stewardship models should be considered to help bring forward land for development. More small sites and a more manageable planning system would also help.

(3) Tackle the skills crisis head on
Construction faced a skills crisis before the coronavirus hit. Shortages of bricklayers, carpenters, and general labourers risk worsening under the new immigration system, so we must invest in homegrown talent now. While SMEs currently train 71% of building apprentices, Government backing is necessary to deliver training in traditional skills as well as skills that will be required to deliver a greener future.

(4) Mandatory licensing scheme
A construction industry that people want to join and that the public has confidence in is needed. Locking in quality via a mandatory licensing scheme for UK construction firms is an opportunity to do things differently and better. The FMB believes that together the construction industry has the vision for a brighter future, and that there is a determination to do better than we have before and move through these difficult times. If the Government matches the industry’s ambition, we have the potential to accomplish this.

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