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NFB Manifesto: Supporting Construction to Power Growth

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) has released its 2024 Election Manifesto, titled: ‘Supporting Construction to Power Growth’. 

Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the NFB, said: 

 “The reality is obvious; the construction industry is a key component for the UK to meeting its numerous challenges and therefore the incoming government must not only understand where the barriers to our industries’ growth exist, but what that means for the UK’s ambition. 

With more than fifty recommendations spread across five chapters, our Manifesto builds on NFB member experiences and involvement with policy makers to create a solid foundation for the reforms that would immediately deliver sustained economic and social growth in construction and across the UK.” 

Presented in five chapters and covering seven topics, “Supporting Construction to Power Growth” presents recommendations that are deliverable within one parliamentary term, and more importantly sustain growth. 

Rico Wojtulewicz, NFB’s Head of Policy and Market Insight, said: 

 “UK construction is key to placemaking, fixing the housing crisis, building our infrastructure, meeting our climate obligations and enabling British business. Yet we appear to have lost sight of how we ensure it isn’t in decline and with insolvencies 30% higher than in 2019, something is awry. 

The NFB manifesto highlights the gaps in policy thinking and ultimately opens doors for growth conversations, without placing further burdens on tax-payers.” 

The first chapter, ‘Decarbonisation’, focuses on the UK building stock, tax incentives, retrofit and energy. It offers solutions to the challenges we face in turning energy inefficient buildings into climate, health and economic assets, the grid into an enabler and government policies into decarbonisation and businesses advancement.  

The second chapter, ‘Housing and Planning’, recognises the barriers of growth to a competitive, better housing market that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) damned as non-existent. With a focus on enabling small and medium sized housebuilders (SMEs), making planning work, fairer housing outcomes, placemaking and affordable housing, it highlights that although we still need major reform, many tweaks are available and should be taken up. 

The third chapter, ‘Procurement and Payment’, builds on some recent reforms but highlights that post-leaving the European Union (EU), the UK has not made the most of its opportunities and it must therefore explore how it can ensure it is spreading growth, rather than avoiding risk. From late payment and retentions, to process and penalty, we need a fairer system for tax-payers and constructors. 

Our fourth chapter, ‘Environment’, looks at how policies on water and biodiversity are not delivering the world leading outcomes that are possible within the existing policy frameworks. Unfortunately, construction has been held accountable for many environmental failings they did not cause and a half decade of stifling and taxing them has not improved outcomes. Our recommendations would achieve an immediate environmental betterment and tackle the source of two major environmental challenges. 

Finally, chapter five highlights ‘Skills and training’ and it is the final chapter because without an ecosystem where construction thrives, we will waste billions training up a new workforce for jobs that don’t exist. The best example of this is the decimation of SME housebuilders, whose market share has dropped from 40% to 9% in three decades. During this period, we have also seen a decrease in the construction workforce, with apprenticeship completions struggling to grow. Is it therefore any wonder that with SMEs training 7 in 10 apprentices and delivering 90% of the training, we have a skills crisis? 

In a recent House Builders Association (HBA) survey, no respondent said the cost of training was an issue but all highlighted that a lack of work pipelines or certainty meant they either couldn’t afford to take on an apprentice, retain an existing worker, or had to cut staff to meet business costs related to the broken planning process. 

Business certainty is key, well exampled by the Government’s commitment to heat pumps and huge investment and growth of that sector. The same should be afforded for all of construction. 

The NFB Manifesto is a starting point for a healthier industry, and it highlights the many things the Government could and should be doing to create an environment for construction to ensure it is able to power and sustain UK growth. 

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