With Tony Blair fast running out of time to tackle the policy issues of central concern to the construction industry, Building spoke to 10 of its leading figures to see what they want from Blair before he goes. Or will it be left to Gordon Brown to take the baton and claim the accolades?
Graham Watts, chief executive, Construction Industry Council
The government should look again at the decision not to implement mandatory home condition reports as part of the home information packs. They should have the nerve to stick to the original plan. They got cold feet probably thinking that bringing in the packs would lose votes. A home is the most expensive product we buy, and having no structured information about it is a terrible thing. It would indirectly be good for the industry as it would mean work for surveyors.
David Cowans, chief executive, Places for People
I’d like to see the government make redevelopment and masterplanning a more efficient process for the public and private sectors. We’d like to see Kate Barker’s second report make recommendations to rationalise planning and support competition for masterplanning and delivery contracts.
Jack Pringle, President, the RIBA
I would like to see Blair equalise VAT for new build (0%) and refurbishment (17.5%). It would stop some of the skewed decisions in the marketplace and encourage clients to do more maintenance. We need to upgrade housing to meet the climate change agenda, but instead of giving people an incentive, like we did to encourage loft insulation 30 years ago, the government is doing quite the opposite.
Tony Vasishta, development director, Tesco
I’d love Tony to relax, simplify and speed up planning regulations for retail outlets, particularly with reference to the alteration of existing schemes and the investments in environment-friendly features – for example, windmills and the like.
Michael Ankers, chief executive, Construction Products Association
Tony Blair has seized the political high ground internationally on climate change, but chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany has delivered the policies and funding to improve the energy efficiency of their existing housing. Blair’s legacy should be a programme to support UK householders so that we beat the Germans on something that really matters.
Bob Blackman, T&G national officer
He could look at the plight of some of the migrant workers from eastern Europe, and what happens to them if they complain about how they’re treated. The usual response is to get rid of them so they don’t cause problems. At the moment, they don’t have any real rights.
John Spanswick, chairman, Major Contractors Group
I’d ask Tony Blair to increase pressure on government departments to take health and safety and training and skills more seriously on government contracts. They should be more rigorous when going out to tender on the safety standards of the companies. Why not make CSCS cards mandatory on government projects?
David Pollock, director, Electrical Contractors Association
We need a dedicated construction minister. Our industry represents about 10% of GDP, yet we do not have a minister whose sole responsibility is construction. Current and previous ministers who’ve had construction as part of their remit have too wide a portfolio to give the industry the representation it needs.
Tony Pidgley, chief executive, Berkeley Group
We need clear leadership and stability, everything else flows from that. First and foremost, nations are about a feelgood factor, and things have felt good under Labour, but all this infighting has done nobody any good. When it’s over for politicians it’s over, but Tony Blair has done a good job. I’d like lower inflation and lower interest rates, but more than anything clear leadership and stability.
Stuart Black, chief executive, Mears Group
The Chartered Institute of Housing, the National Housing Federation and Shelter are making a joint submission on housing policy to next year’s comprehensive spending review, and Tony Blair should ensure that their aims are met. They are campaigning for the improvement of 1 million social homes – new kitchens, bathrooms and so on; the improvement of 5 million private homes; help to get 100,000 people out of temporary accommodation; the construction of 20,000 extra social homes on top of the 30,000 already committed to by 2007/08; and the building of 11,000 affordable homes.