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Now the government is in, let the work begin

Most of us thought the general election would return a hung parliament, with us waiting impatiently from the sidelines for an announcement on our new government weeks later.

But against all odds and expectations, the Conservative Party achieved a decisive win and has triumphantly returned to office for five years – albeit with a wafer-thin majority.

What does this result mean for the construction industry and smaller firms in particular?

Let’s start with the good news.

Some key players are still in place: Brandon Lewis continues as housing and planning minister, which is fantastic news for small housebuilders.

He has only been in place since July 2014 but Mr Lewis has already made great strides, working with the Federation of Master Builders and others to remove barriers to SME housebuilders – especially in terms of access to finance.

Nick Boles also remains as skills and construction minister, which will also bring some welcome continuity to the brief.

He has gone to great lengths to soften the potentially disastrous impact of the apprenticeship funding reforms and we are now in a much better place than we were when he inherited the role.

EU referendum looms

But let’s not forget that there are some threats associated with a Conservative majority government: we’re now sure that the referendum on Europe will take place.

“There’s a huge amount of work for us to do in terms of communicating the positive impact our EU membership”

There’s a huge amount of work for us to do in terms of communicating the positive impact our EU membership has on British business and I urge the CBI and others to bang the drum for Europe over the coming months and years.

Indeed, regardless of the outcome, the referendum itself will be bad for business because if there’s one thing business does not respond well to, it’s political uncertainty.

Housing not just about new-build

Looking at construction more specifically, if I had one piece of advice for the newly elected government it would be this: don’t overlook our existing homes.

The new government understands we need to build more new homes but does not appreciate the urgent and pressing need to refurbish existing ones.

Since the Green Deal stuttered and stalled during the last parliament, energy efficiency as a policy area is no longer in vogue.

The Conservative manifesto set alarm bells ringing – they set themselves the paltry target of insulating one million more homes over the next five years.

This is a mere drop in the ocean when you consider around five million homes had energy efficiency measures installed under the previous government.

“The new government does not appreciate the urgent and pressing need to refurbish our existing homes”

It’s disappointing to see such a lack of ambition at a time when we should be learning the lessons from the Green Deal and re-doubling our efforts.

With the right policy framework, the energy efficiency market can play a part in boosting growth while also helping the UK meet its carbon reduction targets.

Needless to say, we at the FMB will be doing our best to convey this message to ministers over the coming weeks – I hope you’ll join us.

Brian Berry is the chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders

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