Whoever forms the next government, the construction industry must be at the forefront of its thinking to deliver future economic success.
That is the message that the Get Britain Building campaign is putting to the main political parties as it launches its programme for the next government – Get Britain Building: 2020 Delivery.
The Federation of Master Builders has joined forces with the Modern Masonry Alliance, the Builders Merchants Federation and the Home Builders Federation, for the campaign, to drive home just how important the construction sector is to achieving a wide range of policy goals, from providing decent housing to tackling climate change, that will have to be addressed by the new government.
New focus for recovery
Get Britain Building came into being when the outlook for the building industry was its very bleakest. Its clear message was that revival of the construction industry was the country’s best bet to secure economic recovery and job creation.
The economic road the UK has taken since has shown just how accurate this message was, as renewed growth in construction has helped drive a wider economic recovery.
As we approach the next general election, the message is once again clear – construction remains as central to our economic and social well-being in recovery as it did during the recession.
To avoid a spiralling housing crisis the future government must commit fully to building the number of homes that are needed to meet the needs of a growing population.
It must also begin to treat our existing building stock as a key part of our national infrastructure by ensuring it receives sufficient investment and take steps to improve its energy efficiency to ease the cost of living and meet carbon reduction targets.
By the same token we have a key role to play within our own industry by creating the skilled workforce needed to deliver these objectives. We must attract investment into the British manufacturing and building materials sector so that it can expand capacity and ensure that the benefits of growth are realised within the UK.
The Get Britain Building programme for government includes a set of policy recommendations to ensure that this vision is delivered.
The next government needs to publish a long-term housing strategy to solve the housing crisis within a generation.
To expand new housebuilding, they must first ensure stability through upholding the National Planning Policy Framework and maintaining the Help to Buy scheme.
In addition, the new government needs to ensure smaller builders have the finance they need to build through the provision of loan guarantees.
A range of incentives to encourage investment in our private housing stock must be put in place, including variable council tax and a reduced rate of VAT on housing renovation and repair work.
Government, industry and the wider public sector must jointly improve awareness of vocational routes and apprenticeships as a viable and attractive alternative to A-Levels and university.
Some of these policies have been prominent concerns of the industry for some time whilst others are new and have emerged out of the new policy environment we face.
Taken together we believe they represent a joined up programme which can ensure that we have a construction industry fit to deliver key social and environmental goals while continuing to remain the beating heart of a prosperous economy.
Brian Berry is chief executive of the FMB