Amidst all things Brexit in the last seven days, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond delivered his Spring Statement with some encouraging proposals made for the construction industry. Here are the main items from the statement with commentary from Kevin Buckley GGF Group Chief Executive and Richard Hearn, Head of Membership and Training.
The Spring Statement built on the Government’s commitment in its Industrial Clean Growth Strategy and 25 year environmental plan with the following proposals:
- to help smaller businesses reduce their energy bills and carbon emissions, the Government is launching a call for evidence on a Business Energy Efficiency Scheme to explore how it can support investment in energy efficiency measures
- to help ensure consumer energy bills are low and homes are better for the environment, the Government will introduce a Future Homes Standard by 2025, so that new build homes are future-proofed with low carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency
On the energy efficiency proposals, Kevin Buckley, GGF Group Chief Executive commented: “It will be interesting to see the full detail of the Future Homes Standard and what the implications will be for our industry. A more relevant and immediate need is for meaningful Government backed energy efficiency incentives for homeowners currently living in existing housing stock. On the proposal for a Business Energy Efficient Scheme, we support the Government’s call for evidence and we aim to submit responses on behalf of our Members.”
Skills and Apprenticeships
To help employers recruit and maintain a skilled workforce, the Government will continue to update apprenticeship reforms and from 1st April employers will see the co-investment rate they pay cut by a half from 10% to 5%, at the same time as levy-paying employers are able to share more levy funds across their supply chains, with the maximum amount rising from 10% to 25%.
Richard Hearn, GGF Head of Membership and Training commented: “It is good to see the
Government cut apprenticeship levy contribution from co-investors by half whilst allowing levy payers more funds to re-distribute through the supply chain. However, funding is only part of the problem, the GGF’s broad aim is to try and increase interest and awareness of the industry to young people and to make it more attractive for them to consider a career in glass and glazing. We will continue with our activity in this area as drawing young people into the industry is becoming an ever increasing problem.”
Housing and infrastructure
In the Autumn Budget 2017, the Government set out a comprehensive package of new policies to raise housing supply by the end of this Parliament to its highest level since 1970, on track to reach 300,000 a year on average. The Spring Statement set out further steps to deliver this ambition:
- £717 million from the £5.5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock up to 37,000 homes at sites including Old Oak Common in London, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and Cheshire.
- through the Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme, the Government will guarantee up to £3 billion of borrowing by housing associations in England to support delivery of around 30,000 affordable homes
- further progress on delivering growth in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc including £445 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock over 22,000 homes, and a joint declaration with local partners
- up to £260 million for the Borderlands Growth Deal, which on top of the £102 million announced recently for Carlisle from the Housing Infrastructure Fund means up to £362 million UK Government funding into the Borderlands area
Though these are encouraging signs for house builders, Kevin Buckley commented, “The housing crisis remains unresolved but it is positive that substantial investment is now occurring with a clear increase the number of new builds. However, each year, new builds do not account for even 0.5% of the overall UK housing stock. Existing housing stock is the most important area for our Members and homeowners, so I’d like to see the Government put more focus on home improvement, repair and maintenance. Especially with regard to making homes healthier through modern energy efficient measures and by making them, more secure via safety-specific glazing. Introducing new policy, incentives and legislation around home improvement, would support tens of thousands of SMEs, improve millions of properties for homeowners and at the same time, help the broader environment.”