The Home Builders Federation said the Government had failed to heed the industry’s call for a significant increase in investment to help bring forward much needed new housing work.
Of particular annoyance was the lack of immediate response to recommendations made by the long-awaited Crosby Report, published alongside the pre-Budget report.
Former HBOS chief executive Sir James Crosby is recommending that the Government increase the supply of home loans by guaranteeing mortgage-backed securities issued by banks.
This strategy would provide a supply of funds, which could encourage the banks to finally loosen their purse strings – the continuing mortgage drought has been the major cause of the decline in house prices.
The Government has said it will look into Mr Crosby’s findings before announcing its plans for them at the next full Budget in the spring.
The HBF also said the £150 million identified for the delivery of new social housing is painfully inadequate in today’s circumstances.
Much more investment needs to be brought forward both to purchase available stock and to pump prime new sites with upfront cash to help builders commence new projects as a matter of urgency.
HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley said: “The housing market is absolutely critical to the wider economy, and we have been saying for months now that urgent action to assist it is required.
“The Chancellor does not seem to have drawn the same conclusion and the measures will do little to boost a depressed market.
“The money allocated today to start building projects is seriously disappointing and will do too little to assist.”
■ Alistair Darling’s announcement that land remediation tax relief is being extended to cover the withdrawal of exemption from landfill tax has caused alarm bells to ring.
The majority of developers have chosen to follow the landfill tax exemption but with it being withdrawn, the industry is going to have to get to grips with the more complex land remediation tax relief system instead.
Developers will need to use a specialist advisor to help with applications and this could well mean smaller projects will suffer.
ANALYSIS: Civils contractors have more reason to be cheerful
While Alistair Darling’s pre-Budget report was met with boos from the Opposition, it could potentially bring at least a small cheer from civil engineering contractors.
Cheers, certainly, for the announcement that £3 billion worth of investment due for 2010-11 will be brought forward in the coming two years.
The jolt of funding for the roads programme, along with spending on flood defences, may increase the flow of money to civils contractors, and some will also benefit from providing infrastructure for the extra social housing Mr Darling has agreed to fund.
The steps to help small firms with their tax payments and credit availability may take the pressure off some of those hardest hit by the downturn.
The exemption on business rates for some empty properties is welcomed, though, sadly, it is only temporary and will not cover all properties.
But not everything meets with approval. The increase in National Insurance will put more pressure on contractors’ cash flow when it is introduced.
There is also little in the way of help to get the housebuilding market back on its feet.
Mr Darling’s package of measures may go some way to helping small firms – the question now is whether they can be implemented quickly enough to save firms currently fighting for their life.
Alasdair Reisner is head of industry affairs at CECA