'Brexit election must address housing crisis,' says FMB

THE urgent need to build more homes for everyone should be a key priority for all the political parties during the General Election campaign, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

The FMB is calling on all the political parties to make house building a national infrastructure priority, along with 11 other key policy areas in its ‘Programme for Government’ published today. 

The programme calls for the political parties to commit to the following:

Housing

  • Make house building a national infrastructure priority and build 1.5 million new homes 
  • Free up more public land for housing and break it up into small plots for small builders
  • Invest in local authority planning departments to speed up the planning process 

Skills 

  • Promote vocational education and invest in Further Education 
  • Reform the UK Apprenticeship Levy so it works better for small companies
  • Introduce a fair and balanced post-Brexit immigration system 

Quality 

  • Licence all UK construction companies
  • Introduce mandatory warranties for building control-approved work
  • Create a new ‘General Builder’ qualification 

Net Zero Carbon

  • Create a National Retrofit Strategy 
  • Invest in upskilling builders to build and upgrade homes fit for the future
  • Cut VAT on home improvement work to 5% 

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “In this Brexit election the main political parties mustn’t lose sight of the big issues facing the UK such as the current housing crisis. We are still not building enough new homes, and this has led to an affordability crisis and over-crowding. This election is an opportunity for all parties to publish ambitious plans to turn this situation around. Small builders stand ready to help the new Government not only to build more new homes but also make our existing homes more energy efficient.

“Small building companies will also be instrumental in helping the future government tackle other major challenges facing the UK, from helping to tackle the climate crisis to helping to building the hospitals and schools of the future. Our Programme for Government gives 12 clear policies for each of the political parties to adopt to support SME builders. Politicians must not only give the country the gift of resolving Brexit this Christmas, but also a vision for the future of our built environment.”

www.fmb.org.uk

Personal and professional safety engages delegates at Hire 2019 Conference

HIRE 2019 has been hailed a resounding success after HAE EHA’s annual conference brought together industry stakeholders and influencers for the best programme yet of speaker presentations and exhibitor stands and demonstrations.

The overriding themes of safety and career development were outlined in the opening addresses by HAE EHA Chair Brian Sherlock and commercial manager Paul Gaze alongside Scott Ball of HireTrain, and a full and fascinating programme followed.

First up was Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, a British computing, mathematics and language genius who founded Stemettes in 2013, a social enterprise promoting women in Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers. Her uplifting presentation focused on the challenges of enticing women into these traditionally male areas of employment, explaining how STEM roles are “incredibly creative” and all about problem solving.

Mark Noonan of CITB then followed with a complementary examination of how Pathways to Hire is expected to also encourage more new starters into what is being positioned as a dynamic and appealing career path; and Dr Léa Cléret of Leadership Trust continued with how to hang onto valued team members through a sustained programme of leadership and inclusive behaviours. Frank Elkins, COO of Travis Perkins, rounded off the morning with a thought-provoking presentation on measures being taken to tackle dumper and digger safety.

The afternoon was kicked off by Chris Lucas of HSE who explained the link between inadequate welfare facilities and construction worker ill health, and steps being taken to address the issues. Chief economist of Barbour-ABI and AMA Research, Tom Hall, gave a fascinating insight into the state of the UK’s economy as well as that of the construction sector; followed by Det Supt Neil Austin of West Mercia Police, who had the audience gripped with his overview of ATM theft and the work of the National Intelligence Unit for Serious and Organised Acquisitive Crime.

Finally, with mental health taking centre stage in many nationwide forums at the moment, there was a timely and thought-provoking addition to the debates from Brian Parker of AFI Uplift and Paul Gaze of HAE EHA, on creating and updating mental health policies in the workplace and the ideal model for such policies.

HAE EHA chief executive officer Graham Arundell commented: “This was without doubt the most varied and engaging line-up of speakers we have ever had at our annual conference, and it was also gratifying to see many of our members exhibiting alongside the highly informative presentations. HAE EHA is making great strides with several proactive partners to really support and grow the Hire sector, to develop new opportunities and evolve as necessary to continue making a crucial contribution to the UK economy. Hire 2019 underlined these objectives and could not have been more closely allied to the theme of collaboration, innovation and inspiration.”

www.hae.org.uk

'Spectre of uncertainty continues to haunt construction,' says FMB

UK CONSTRUCTION PMI data published today shows overall volumes of work in construction falling for the sixth consecutive month.

Commenting on the sustained downturn, Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “Following a Halloween Brexit delay, the spectre of uncertainty continues to haunt the construction industry, and this is leading to a sustained decline not seen in over six years.

"A Brexit delay, while giving some respite by avoiding a no-deal Brexit, has just led to further uncertainty and stagnation, which is leading to subdued client demand. We know that many homeowners are holding off undertaking home improvement works due to Brexit uncertainty and this is having a knock-on effect of builders' workloads. It is unclear how long clients will hold off waiting for certainty, and invest their money elsewhere.

“Ahead of the general election, political parties should provide clear and unambiguous support for business and back this up with pro-enterprise policies. Now is the time for politicians to come up with some radical policies to give a much-needed boost to the UK’s construction industry. The new Prime Minister will also need to give much-needed certainty, from day one, about the future direction of the UK and its relationship with the EU.”

Also commenting on the data, Gareth Belsham, director of the national property consultancy and surveyors Naismiths, said: “So far this is more a case of respite rather than relief. Construction output is still falling, even if the rate of decline is a little less punishing.

“What silver linings there are are modest. The number of new orders coming in is sliding fast, but at least the latest drop was less than that seen in August and September. 

“Investor appetite remains deeply fragile and many contractors are being pummelled on three fronts. Just as their order books get thinner and erode their confidence, they are being forced to bid low for the shallow pool of new work available – while at the same time input costs go up and slice into their margins. No wonder many construction firms are trying to cut costs where they can, and staffing levels have fallen every month since April.

“Nevertheless there are some glimmers of hope. While Britain’s Brexit agony has been put on pause by what promises to be an equally divisive election hiatus, the chances of a chaotic ‘no-deal’ exit have at least diminished.

“While few would bet on a magical return to business as usual after the December election, even a modicum of stability could lead to the thawing of long-delayed projects.

“Until then the industry has little choice but to knuckle down and retain enough capability to cope with the day – whenever it comes – that demand returns to more normal levels.”

www.fmb.org.uk

Tool theft affects 8 in 10 builders, finds FMB

MORE than three-quarters of Britain’s builders have been victims of tool theft, with some having lost more than £20,000 worth of tools in the past ten years, according to new research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Key results from the FMB’s research into tool theft reveal:

  • More than three quarters (83%) of UK builders have had their tools stolen.
  • More than one in three incidents involved theft from vans (38%) and theft from sites (34%). 7% of incidents saw tools stolen from a shed or garage at home, and 3% of incidents saw tools stolen from inside the home.
  • Of builders who had tools stolen in the past ten years (78%), the most common value of loss was £2,500. One in ten builders said that they had at least £10,000 worth of tools stolen, and 2% said they had at least £20,000.
  • When asked how many working days builders had lost to tool theft over the past ten years, one in three builders (29%) said one to two working days and 16% said two to five working days. 7% of builders said they had lost five working days or more.
  • Over a 40-year working life, a builder will typically lose £10,000 worth of tools and 6 working days to tool theft.
  • Tool theft is taking its toll on builders’ mental health, causing 15% of builders to suffer from anxiety, one in ten builders (11%) to suffer from depression and some reported experiences of panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Decisive action is needed to tackle tool theft. Eight in ten builders report that they have had tools stolen before. This is causing mental health issues amongst builders with reports of depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, stress and even suicidal thoughts. The Government needs to look into tool theft and consider the need for the introduction of tighter regulations around selling second-hand tools, and greater minimum fines for those convicted of tool theft.” 

Berry concluded: “Builders need to take extra steps to reduce the risk of theft by bringing tools inside at night, installing extra locks in the van, marking tools with an address or phone number, and painting them a special colour. Builders should also check their insurance policies to see what they have covered. Websites are available where tool serial numbers can be registered for extra piece of mind when it comes to making a claim on insurance. Tool theft is not a victimless crime and stronger government action is needed to help tackle this growing problem.”

www.fmb.org.uk

'Urgent research is needed into the health of outdoor workers,' says British Safety Council

THE British Safety Council welcomes King’s College London’s research demonstrating a direct link between air pollution and health emergencies, saying more work is now needed on the effects of exposure on outdoor workers.

New research from King’s College London proves that hundreds of children and adults are needlessly suffering when air pollution levels are higher in nine major English cities. The research shows that hospital admittances related to cardiac arrests, strokes and severe asthma attacks increase during these key periods.

Commenting on the data from King’s College London, Matthew Holder, British Safety Council Head of Campaigns, said: “The more we learn about the health impacts of air pollution, the more concerning it becomes. The latest research from King’s College London provides evidence that even relatively short-term exposure to air pollution at high levels causes immediate and serious health conditions.

"At the British Safety Council, a charity focused on occupational issues, we are very concerned about the health of outdoor workers who spend week after week in the ambient environment, breathing in toxic air. Outdoor workers face a potentially higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and acute asthma than many people who live and work in our cities.”

In March 2019, the British Safety Council launched its Time to Breathe campaign, which is focused on the protection of outdoor workers from air pollution. The cornerstone of the campaign is Canairy, the first mobile app that gives outdoor workers and their employers insights into pollution and how to reduce staff exposure to it. It has been created in co-operation with King’s College London.

Matthew Holder went on to say: “Although Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said that King’s research provided the evidence of a ‘health emergency’, the government, the regulator and employers are complacent about this risk and are reluctant to take urgent and appropriate action. That is why we launched the Time to Breathe campaign.

“We are calling for:

  • adoption of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) exposure guidelines for nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and ozone in the UK by 2030;
  • pollution alerts issued by Defra to reference outdoor workers when necessary; and
  • better measurement of the exposure of workers, as well as comprehensive cohort studies into the health impacts of air pollution.

“Today the Mayor of London is hosting the International Clean Air Summit. Government ministers and business leaders will come together to agree new actions for tackling air pollution. We hope that the summit will move the agenda of air pollution forward significantly, including acknowledging the serious risks to outdoor workers.”

www.britsafe.org

Concern grows at construction issues in the Queen's Speech

NEW legislation regarding the implementation of building safety standards needs to be underpinned by a mandatory licensing scheme for all UK construction companies, said the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in response to the Queen’s speech yesterday (Monday 14 October) as part of the State Opening of Parliament ceremony.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The Queen’s announcement that the Government will bring forward new rigorous laws forcing compliance with building safety standards is an important and essential step in improving safety and confidence in our built environment. After the Grenfell fire tragedy it’s essential that we raise the bar in construction.

"However, the Government must go further still and publicly consult on a mandatory licensing scheme for all UK construction companies. This would serve to remove from the industry any firm that ignores health and safety procedure and risks safety in and around the built environment. Licensing would also remove rogue traders that bring the image of builders into disrepute, whether they are operating in the private domestic sector or in the supply chain on a large commercial site. We now await further details on this bill and whether it will have the teeth it needs to improve the construction sector.”

Meanwhile, others in the property industry noted with dismay a lock of focus on the sector in the Queen's Speech. Tom Gatzen, the co-founder of leading roomshare platform, ideal flatmate, commented: “It's disappointing to see that the state of the UK property market failed to make the cut for today’s speech. We’ve seen the high cost of property prices and a distinct lack of house-building result in many of us remaining resigned to the UK rental sector, while more and more us are forced to rely on shared accommodation to put a roof over our heads.

"Not only is this putting a huge strain on the rental space, but a lack of affordable and social rental options is also causing an increase in the number of people ending up on the streets. This is a major issue in today’s society and one that should come before education, infrastructure and many of the other areas of focus announced today.”

Marc von Grundherr, director of lettings and estate agent, Benham and Reeves, commented: “It really is quite astonishing that despite the consistent doom and gloom that has surrounded the UK property market for some time now, yet another blind eye has been turned to the issues plaguing our property market. The Government’s monumental failure to build enough homes has resulted in a national housing crisis and this isn’t something we can shy away from and hope it goes away.

"While previous initiatives have stoked the fires of buyer demand and caused an even greater thirst for property, the actual delivery of housing stock to meet this demand has been woeful and perhaps this latest neglect of the issue is the Government admitting defeat?"

www.fmb.org.uk

British Safety Council calls on employers to safeguard their workforce’s mental health

ON the eve of World Mental Health Day, held on 10 October, the British Safety Council is calling on the government and businesses to invest in prevention to tackle mental ill-health at work.

Lawrence Waterman, chairman of the British Safety Council, said: “There is growing awareness of the scale of the mental health crisis. The facts are stark: one in three of us will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in our lives. Three out of five people have experienced mental health issues due to work (Business in the Community).

“For years this issue went unrecognised and undetected, and I welcome the fact that government is now taking action - and that more and more companies are developing mental health strategies to support the needs of their workforce.”

Mr Waterman went on to say: “We must continue to make progress, not least in how people see mental health and their role in dealing with it. Given the average person now spends a third of their adult life at work, we all have a part to play in safeguarding physical and mental health at work.

“Just as with physical health and safety, prevention is the best cure and the wisest investment. Changes that reduce stress, encourage early intervention and remove the mental health stigma deliver significant long-term benefits.”

The British Safety Council, which has been delivering mental health awareness training since 2017, has developed new courses to increase understanding of factors which play a key role in employee health and wellbeing, including sleep, nutrition and exercise. These modules, available from November 2019, include training options for those with limited time.

Demand for the courses has come from the British Safety Council’s members and students who have already undertaken mental health training and want to foster a culture in their own organisations that positively promotes employee wellbeing and mental health.

Working in partnership with the mental health charity Mates in Mind, the British Safety Council delivers several mental health training courses. These help people start and manage difficult conversations about mental health.

They include:

Start the Conversation – a 45-minute session that aims to get employees thinking about mental health and talking about it.

Manage the Conversation – a three-hour workshop for line managers to give them the skills and confidence to have conversations about mental health.

Mental Health First Aid – a two-day course that teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue.

There are also online resources: including Start the Conversation, which aims to get employees thinking about mental health and talking about it, Resilience, developed with elite sports professionals for building physical and emotional resilience, and Stress Awareness training for employees and managers.

www.britsafe.org

CEA announce new recruit to the CESAR network team

THE Construction Equipment Association (CEA) has announced the appointment of Clive Harris as a consultant to help deliver the new specialist police unit to combat construction and agricultural equipment crime.

He was formerly the Agricultural Vehicle Specialist for leading insurers NFU Mutual and an insurer representative on the CESAR Review Committee which supervised the work of the successful official plant marking and registration scheme, CESAR.

CEA Chief Executive, Rob Oliver welcomed the appointment; “We have worked with Clive for some years over which time he has been the source of excellent advice and support on plant theft and insurer issues. The opportunity for him to join “Team CEA” was too good to miss. He will help manage the relationship between the insurance sector, the police and other stakeholders in relation to the CESAR programme.

"This comes at an important time in the run-up to the creation of a new police resource to build on the work of the old PANIU organisation which suspended operations earlier this year.”     

Stephen Howarth, AEA Economist also commented on Clive’s new role: “Clive has an unparalleled knowledge and experience of the issues around security and theft of machinery and of the partnership between the industry and the police to minimise the risks. I can’t think of a better person to take on this role, which should ensure that the new police unit will make an effective contribution to reducing the impact of rural crime.”

Clive Harris added: “I am delighted at having been given the opportunity to continue working with the CEA, AEA and all CESAR stakeholders to make a positive contribution.

"We live in a world of constant change and the suspension of PANIU was disappointing. However, I am confident that the current work going on behind the scenes will create a very strong successor to challenge plant, construction and qgricultural vehicle theft, taking it to the next level through stronger alliances.”

Keith Dolbear, Chair of the CEA’s CESAR Review Committee confirmed, “Whilst the details concerning the formation of a new dedicated police unit are being worked through, the industry can continue to call on the expertise of the CESAR team. This includes the 24/7 “hotline” and the continuing links with police forces up and down the country. Support for the CESAR scheme and its growing number of applications has never been stronger."

www.thecea.org.uk

'Simple Brexit visa system needed for construction workers', says FMB

A SIMPLE, flexible migration system for construction workers post-Brexit is essential if the Government is to meet its housing and infrastructure targets, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in response to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) research report ‘Migration and Construction’ published today.  

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “The CITB report is absolutely right to highlight the barriers facing construction employers needing to employ non-UK workers. The Government needs to look again at its post-Brexit immigration system to make it easier and simpler for small building companies needing to recruit non-UK labour.

"There is currently a serious skills crisis in the building industry which explains why 9% of the construction workforce is made up of EU workers. Given it takes many years to train a high-quality tradesperson there will, in the short term at least, continue be an urgent need to recruit non-UK labour. Without this labour the industry will not be able to deliver the homes and key infrastructure projects that are needed to underpin the UK’s national productivity and growth."
 
“The current non-EU migration system is exceptionally difficult for small employers to engage with taking as long as eight months in some instances to secure specialist tradespeople to come to the UK to work on sites. Most small businesses simply don’t have the time and resources to take that on.

"It would be very damaging just to extend this system to EU workers without seriously reforming it. Extending ‘low skilled’ visas from 12 months to 24 months; allowing non-UK born workers the opportunity to transition to a ‘high skilled’ visa; and the creation of an ‘umbrella sponsorship’ scheme would help ease concerns about how construction companies are going to fill the skills gaps.”

www.fmb.org.uk

Construction input needed for Brexit preparations, says FMB

CONSTRUCTION should not be overlooked by the Government in no-deal Brexit preparation says the Federation of Master Builders in response to the construction PMI data published today showing that output in September declined at second-sharpest pace since 2009.

The fall in staffing levels was the sixth in as many months and the strongest since the end of 2010.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “The construction industry accounts for seven per cent of the UK’s GDP and over three million jobs. Today’s figures, which show the second-sharpest fall in output since 2009 and staffing levels since 2010, should be a concern for us all. With ambitious infrastructure and house building targets, the Government can’t afford to lose any more capacity in this industry.”

“The PMI data picks up on material shortages and bottlenecks already, even before leaving the EU, and this is likely to be a major concern in the event of a no-deal. I urge the Government to work with the industry to ensure that key construction products, critical to the building work this country needs, such as timber, are not held up at ports across the country in a no-deal scenario.” 

Berry concluded: “It is encouraging to see the industry is more optimistic for the next 12 months and I hope that if the Government is able to secure a good exit deal with the EU, then client confidence will rebound, and the industry will start growing again.”

www.fmb.org.uk

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