CEF Work in Progress – May Update

Construction Employers Federation updates members on ongoing issues...

Construction Employers Federation (CEF) represents the interests of the NI construction industry and Managing Director, Mark Spence, discusses below some of the issues the Federation is currently working on:

CEF’s core demand for a review of all existing Procurement Guidance Notes (PGNs) is now under way and will result in a smaller number of fit for purpose Procurement Policy Notes (PPNs) that will be going forward to the Executive for adoption and then become mandatory to all CoPEs. CEF is also working within the Board on workshopping Social Value to develop an effective use of procurement to deliver social outcomes whilst not burdening contractors. Other CEF priority workstreams include developing more robust work pipelines, review of delivery of major projects and supply chain resilience.

The NI Executive approved its Budget for 2021/22 in early April. Detailed spending plans from each of the Government Clients remain to be finalised. A substantial uplift in the capital allocation for NI Water is welcome but will need to be repeated for each of the following 5 years of the PC21 period to make any inroads into our wastewater capacity issues.

With a senior advisor role to the CLC, CEF has signed up as a CLC CO2nstructZero Task Force Partner to roll out emerging advice from CLC to NI contractors. CEF has also initiated CEF member Task Forces to digest and share CLC guidance on carbon and the recent Skills Plan, both of which are central to the future of the industry.

Build UK continues to support the CLC outputs and call for continued vigilance in maintaining the Safe Operating Procedures that have kept our sites safe from the worst ravages of the pandemic. Ongoing support for enhanced apprenticeships and training are also key agenda items.

CEF will co-chair the reconstituted CIFNI which is an industry/government client body set up for sharing knowledge and good practice, identifying shared concerns and developing policy related matters.

Ahead of a formal consultation in the summer, the Strategic Investment Board has recently conducted a Call for Evidence on a new NI Executive Investment Strategy for the coming decade. The document, which will also take a 30-year look at our infrastructure needs, is one of the fundamental building blocks of our recovery from the pandemic and it is crucial that it is both ambitious and deliverable. To this end, the CEF met with SIB in late March and submitted a robust response to the Call for Evidence. We look forward to seeing a number of the key themes we identified addressed in the summer’s consultation.

Although seen by the Department of Finance as only a partial uplift, with further changes to be consulted on after next year’s Assembly election, Part F of the Building Regulations is likely to be revised this autumn. A public consultation is due in advance of this with the focus likely to fall on areas such as: a better/lower carbon dioxide emissions performance of new buildings; more use of PV panels – but not mandatory at this stage; a ‘fabric first’ approach – focus on enhancing insulation. Overall, the aim for dwellings is 25-40% betterment against the current emissions target.

With the closing date for submissions to the Department for Infrastructure’s Review of 2011 Planning Act having passed on 16th April, the CEF is working with others in the business community to ensure that the Department takes forward a reform programme before next year’s Assembly election. Within the CEF’s response to the Review we have called for changes to be made to future processes relating to the development of Local Development Plans; an enhanced role for PAD’s on major and regionally significant applications; statutory timeframes for responses for statutory consultees; and greater flexibility for applicants seeking minor amendments or non-material changes to approved applications; among a series of other recommendations.

CEF, FMB and NIFHA have recently joined forces on a number of public calls for a specific Housing outcome to be included in the Programme for Government. While we await the publication of the final PfG, the Department for Communities will soon begin consultation on a new Housing Supply Strategy for NI. Given that many of the key factors leading to an increase in housing supply lie outside of DfC’s direct remit, e.g. water infrastructure deficit, it is vital that such a strategy cuts across a number of Executive Departments for it to stand any chance of success.

To stay up to date with the latest news from the Construction Employers Federation, visit www.cefni.co.uk