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George Osborne UK Chancellor Budget

Why make a Hobby out of a Lobby?

Around about this time of year, as we approach the Budget, many trade associations and other interested parties, have already submitted their proposals to the incumbent Chancellor of the Exchequer.

This year there is the special edge of a General Election in May and there is no doubt that the ‘goodies’ presented by Chancellor George Osborne will be bigger and more enticing than usual. On Wednesday, 18 March, one can see that the Cheshire cat smile will be wider than usual when he sits down and gets an additional pat on the back from his fellow Old Etonian.

What will it be this time round? In the old days, General Election campaigning was mercifully brief and really only got started when Parliament was dissolved and the M.P.s – part time and full time – went back to the constituencies to actually meet their constituents. But this time we have had campaigning going from the turn of the year. Now, we have a steady stream of what will be done after we have cast our votes.

No matter how the opposition parties will say they have had their policies independently costed, it’s Osborne who has the money to play with and we can be sure, if it is true, that he has £5 billion to play around with; giveaways to the electorate that will tick a number of boxes to get re-elected. After all, tax receipts have been higher than forecasted, employment figures show a downward trend, and inflationary pressures have eased considerably with the collapse of oil prices.

This doesn’t stop vested interests – I think we are supposed to call them ‘stakeholders’ these days – setting out their stall every year.

The Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF) is one trade association that bangs the drum for the fenestration sector and the old chestnuts come up. In his letter to Osborne, Nigel Rees, Chief Executive, GGF, yet again pointed out the usual targets – the case for energy efficient windows being at 5% VAT; the dreadfully disappointing figures for the Green Deal and so on. One has to ask, why bother? The Chancellor will have got the rabbits in his hat to pull out this month in his Budget speech. Is he really going to cut VAT on energy efficient windows to 5% this time round?

SENSE OF HISTORY

But what is the alternative – to do nothing at all?

Not quite and we don’t want to go back to the position of politicians in Westminster not knowing who the relevant trade associations are in the building industry. I remember going in the early 1980s to a parliamentary lunch, organised by the Builders Merchants Federation, when a M.P. stated: “We don’t know who you are.”

No one wants that situation to return and the GGF has to be congratulated for making aware to those who decide in the Westminster Bubble, the arguments that need to be addressed by governments and local authorities.

It is just that trade associations can be in danger of being too focused on banging their heads against a brick wall, rather than promoting more of what they do.

If you look at the GGF website, you will see the Groups and what they do. There appears to be one omission and that is MyTradeTV has learned that it has launched a Heritage Window Group, to develop guidance on the installation of windows and doors within conservation areas and locations with Article 4 direction. Its aims are:

    • To inform Conservation Officers as to what products are out there suitable for historic buildings.
    • Change the perceptions of PVC among the minds of Conservation Officers and English Heritage.
    • Stress the thermal benefits (and CO2 reduction) associated with modern PVC-U windows

Now, if the trade press could be allowed in to report on this and other tremendous work the GGF and its members does, as the media can do with other associations, a fresh approach could help the Federation to achieve some of the goals. It would broaden the flow of information and help those outside the GGF to see the value of joining.

Mind, you that has been my old chestnut for a number of years and look where that has got me!

Michael Gannon

Editor

MyTradeTV

Caption            Have bag, will travel….Chancellor Osborne is likely to have more in it than before but will lobbying really have paid off by the trade associations?

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