The announcements made by Chancellor George Osborne in his Budget last week did not have many trade associations in the building sector jumping with joy.
The Construction Products Association (CPA) said the Budget provided few surprises but was please with the announcement of a ‘Help to Buy ISA’ scheme. It believed that this move could stimulate home-buyers’ interest in the near term and house builders’ confidence in the medium term; a welcome aid in fighting what the CPA sees as flattening demand it forecasted for the private housing sector after the ‘uncertainty’ of the General Election.
“Of particular interest to us will be the review of business rates flagged by the Chancellor and the related issues of capital allowances for plant and machinery, all of which has a very real effect on inward investment,” said Diana Montgomery, Chief Executive, CPA. “Finally, the wider industry, particularly small to medium enterprises (SMEs), will recognise the impact of the government’s plans to abolish Class 2 NICs in the next Parliament. The real improvement in this case is not the nominal contribution amount – £137 per annum – but rather the savings by removing another regulatory burden and overhead, which is likely thousands of pounds and many hours of time which SMEs can focus elsewhere.”
SIN OF OMISSION
The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) could hardly conceal its disappointment on what it saw as a desertion of sustainability credentials by the government.
“This Budget speech referenced growth 14 times, but carbon not at all – it has done little to help grow the low carbon economy and little to meet real housing demand,” declared David Hopkins, Executive Director, Wood for Good, on behalf of the Timber Industry Accord. “Initiatives like the new home ISA and housing zones will provide some assistance in the building market and new projects like Swansea Bay will in time help to decarbonise the grid. But, direct investment now in new low-carbon housing schemes made from truly renewable materials would act as a great economic multiplier, create a legion of skilled jobs and reduce carbon emissions here and now while also reducing energy demand for the future.”
The feeling that Osborne had missed an opportunity to press forward with energy efficient policies was mentioned by the Builders Merchants Federation. “While builders’ merchants may see a long term boost in sales stemming from the new Help to Buy ISA, it is disappointing not to see further measures to help people improve their homes, particularly around energy efficiency,” stated John Newcomb, Managing Director, BMF. “Our members would have been delighted to see a reduction in VAT for repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI), which would have really cemented the ‘long term economic’ growth in the merchant sector.”
Mr Newcomb went on to state that reforming VAT in this area would have the added benefit of helping to tackle the black economy, which currently significantly reduces the Chancellor’s tax take on home improvement work.
TRAINING IS KEY
The message that the Federation Master Builders (FMB) wished to focus on was the apprenticeship vouchers mentioned by George Osborne.
“It’s been a long and bumpy road since the Richard Review first touted the idea of putting the purchasing power back in the hands of the employer but the government has finally set out a clear direction of travel in terms of its apprenticeship funding reforms,” said Brian Berry, Chief Executive, FMB.
Mr Berry believed the new digital apprenticeship voucher model was a “vast improvement” on what was formerly proposed. However, he still had some concerns about the potential for this new system to add additional administrative burden for small firms. “To counter this, we will be working closely with the next government to minimise any added bureaucracy. For SMEs, bureaucracy is the biggest barrier to engagement in any scheme so industry and government must work together to help ensure this new system does not have a detrimental impact on apprenticeship numbers.”
At the time of going to press, MYTTV had not received a Budget response from the Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF).
Caption George Osborne did not get many excited with his last Budget before the General Election in May.