Election 24: Builders’ federation urges wide-ranging government action

The next government should fund building-safety remediation works, abolish retentions and ban late-paying firms from winning public sector jobs, according to the National Federation of Builders (NFB).

In its Supporting Construction to Power Growth manifesto, released yesterday (30 May), the industry body also urges a smarter approach to retrofitting plus “root and branch” reform of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

The manifesto makes more than 50 recommendations, which the NFB says could be implemented in a single parliamentary term.

On the building-safety levy, for instance, the NFB calls for the incoming government after the 4 July general election to “take control of [hazardous cladding] remediation and complete works with public funds”, removing the financial burden from developers and leaseholders.

It also argues that late payment of contractors and subcontractors “remains a stain on the government’s record and while the public sector has improved… it has not made late and unfair payment practices unattractive in the private sector”.

To ensure that bad practitioners cannot win public sector contracts, the NFB wants the next government to “ensure late payers do not win taxpayer-funded works”.

The public sector must follow the best practices outlined in the Construction Playbook, the manifesto urges, and calls for the guidance document to be “periodically updated to support SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises]”.

Retentions should be abolished and replaced with an industry-supported scheme, the NFB says, and the government should introduce a Confidential Procurement Reporting Portal to report “unfair and poor procurement practices”.

Among its other recommendations, the manifesto urges the government to provide tax incentives for construction companies that invest in training, upskilling and development.

This would involve a diminished CITB, which has already undergone an in-depth review led by construction sector veteran Mark Farmer.

The NFB argues for “root-and-branch” reform of the training organisation, including stripping it of its levy-raising powers, and “ending CITB projects and programmes for good”.

Companies should also be able to “offset their CITB levy or vice-versa”, it adds.

The manifesto further addresses the decarbonisation agenda and environmental policies. For instance, the NFB urges a “cuter response to growing retrofitting skills and enabling works”.

Retrofit strategies should be reviewed by the incoming government “so that industry, funders and homeowners are aware of the true costs”.

The manifesto recommends that the next government implements a solar panel strategy that focuses on “commercial properties and industrial land, such as car parks”.

In addition, all local plans should incorporate local grid capacity in their site-allocation processes, so that renewable projects and electrification, such as EV charging, are supported as the grid evolves.

NFB chief executive Richard Beresford said: “The reality is obvious: the construction industry is a key component for the UK [in] meeting its numerous challenges and therefore the incoming government must not only understand where the barriers to our industry’s growth exist, but [also] what that means for the UK’s ambition.”

The manifesto “presents recommendations that are deliverable within one parliamentary term and, more importantly, sustain growth”, he added.

Rico Wojtulewicz, NFB 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 [does not] decline, and with [the rate of] insolvencies 30 per cent higher than in 2019, something is awry.”

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