As the party conference season approaches, Building is now ready to unveil the next stage of its Agenda 15 campaign to create a manifesto for construction for the next parliament.
At the start of the year, we asked the construction industry to respond to six broad questions about the state of the industry by setting out the policies it wants the next government to implement to create a more efficient and effective construction sector.
Having been inundated with responses from many different parts of construction, Building has studied and absorbed these suggestions, and distilled them into a document that, we hope, can garner the support of the industry. We have now published - online - a draft version of the manifesto for consultation.
The proposed manifesto has six themes, summarised in brief here. For full details of what we’re suggesting, click on the image of our draft manifesto here to view the draft as a pdf.
As ever, in this process, we want your thoughts, feedback and comments. The consultation includes a series of detailed questions about the proposed manifesto; so get involved. On the opposite page we set out exactly how you can do that.
Remember - you can’t shape the content of the manifesto if you don’t take part. This is your chance to influence the agenda that we take to the politicians on the industry’s behalf in the run-up to the next election.
The one thing the whole of the industry can agree is the need for any incoming government to tackle the problem of certainty around the long term infrastructure needs of the UK. The lack of political consensus around major infrastructure projects, allied with the opaque way in which professional technical advice is used in forming policy, has created a crisis of confidence in many parts of the UK’s infrastructure construction pipeline, with airport capacity being the most obvious example. Sir John Armitt, commissioned by Labour, has proposed one solution to this problem. Building’s draft manifesto includes proposals taking on board Armitt’s work to tackle this issue.
Building’s previous consultation also identified housebuilding as a huge priority for the sector and the UK as a whole. There is both an industry and wider national consensus over the requirement for more homes to help people in housing need and to aid the efficient functioning of the economy. But, despite this, the construction of homes is not identified by the current government as a national infrastructure priority. Our proposals will seek to rectify this with a comprehensive plan, building on the success that Help to Buy has had in beginning to stimulate private housebuilding.
The final huge elephant in the room according to our Agenda 15 consultation was the need to significantly upgrade the existing stock of commercial and domestic buildings in order to meet higher environmental standards. Despite the requirements of the 2008 Climate Change Act, the coalition’s initiatives in this area, such as the Green Deal, haven’t amounted to a comprehensive strategy to address this challenge. Like housing, green retrofit has not been identified as a national infrastructure priority. Our manifesto proposes to rectify this.
Linked in with all three previous themes is the issue of government fiscal policy - tax and spend. First, taxation. A number of consultees raised this issue, particularly around the implementation of VAT, over which there remains a long-standing industry campaign to equalise the VAT paid on new build and retrofit construction. Our manifesto proposes a wider look at taxation as it affects the whole of construction and property: VAT, stamp duty, capital gains tax, council tax, and local business rates. Tax incentives for investment in infrastructure are another key issue. Our proposals say this review should be considered alongside potential reforms designed to give more power to city governments to use locally-collected taxes. This should allow them to boost construction locally with initiatives such as tax increment financing.
A number of consultees called for greater certainty over government capital spending. The coalition has sought to address this issue by the publication of the government’s construction pipeline, hosted on the Building website. However, concerns remain over the detail contained in it and the reliability of timescales for projects held on the pipeline. Building’s draft proposals ask for your views on how to address this, and in which areas is it most important to get certainty over future spending.
Our consultation highlighted again the huge challenge posed by the lack of the required skills in a construction industry seemingly so subject to cycles of boom and bust. The industry lost 35,000 skilled workers in the recession, and the number of construction apprenticeships fell sharply as workflow reduced. Meanwhile widespread dissatisfaction persists over the administration of the industry levy which funds trade skills training. At the same time professional bodies are considering how to retain the global value inherent in UK professional qualifications while meeting the required demand for new entrants. Our proposals aim to address these problems.
How to get involved
The full consultation is available at building.co.uk/agenda15.
Please tell us if we’ve got it right. Our consultation contains a number of questions which we want you to answer in order to tell us if our manifesto is progressing along the right lines. Responses can be submitted via an electronic form on the website, or by an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you feel strongly about what we’ve proposed, either positively or negatively, then tell us - and make sure to include in your submission what we should be saying instead.
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