Architects chief also wants VAT and PAYE deferrals

The government must lead by example and commit to both faster payment terms and direct payments to subcontractors, RIBA has told the chancellor.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak this week, Alan Vallance, chief executive of the architects’ institute, said the government was a major construction client.

Alan Vallance

He demanded action from ministers in three main areas: cash flow, planning and keeping sites open.

The ability of the sector to keep working was vitally important, he said, and since two-thirds of materials were imported, customs clearance processes must be maintained.

“The understandable prioritisation of essential medical and food supplies [must] not lead to delays elsewhere,” he said.

Cash flow was architects’ most pressing and immediate source of concern, he added, with the Treasury needing to consider a range of measures that allow businesses to prioritise their day-to-day financial transactions.

“Some of this is relatively straightforward: the immediate deferral of PAYE, VAT and business rate payments, clear guidance on how to access loans and the timescales for how long they can expect to wait for decisions and funds,” said Vallance.

“But this isn’t going to be enough. Government needs to pull together a joined-up response.

”As a major client in the construction sector it must commit to faster payment terms and direct payment to subcontractors on public contracts.

”We also think a government-backed low/no cost factoring facility for private contracts would be of great benefit given the wider uncertainty in the market.”

Firms also needed access to cash to invest immediately in home-working technology.

Vallance (pictured) said his third priority was keeping the “business of architects [going] as far as is possible and safe”, with the continuance of planning of vital importance.

“The ability of local authorities to carry out their duties while ensuring the health and safety of their staff and local communities will require additional support and flexibility from the Treasury and MHCLG,” he said.

“Additional short and medium-term funding to cover staff absences will be essential.

“We also think there is a need to look at the practical operation of the system under these circumstances.

”This could mean the relaxation of time limits for planning applications to allow local authorities to prioritise cases to reflect health and safety considerations and the nature of requests, and waivers to allow the deferral of requirements for information if planning officers judge a request to be of low or no impact.”